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Albert J. Mills 
Gabrielle Eurepos 

Eldcn Wicbc 


Case Study 

Editorial Board 


Albert J. Mills 

Saint Mary's University, Halifax, 

Nova Scotia 

Gabrielle Durepos 

St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, 

Nova Scotia 

Elden Wiebe 

The King's University College, Edmonton, 


Managing Editor 

Marion Weatherbee 

Editorial Board 

David Michael Boje 

New Mexico State University 

Adrian Carr 

University of Western Sydney 

Matthew David 
University of Liverpool 

Annette Davies 
University of Cardiff 

Hans Doorewaard 

Radboud University Nijmegen, 
the Netherlands 

Kathleen Eisenhardt 
Stanford University 

Robert P. Gephart, Jr. 

University of Alberta 

David Carroll Jacobs 

Morgan State University 

Roy Stager Jacques 
Massey University, New Zealand 

Alison M. Konrad 

University of Western Ontario 

Sally Maitlis 

University of British Columbia 

Jean Helms Mills 

Saint Mary's University, Halifax, 
Nova Scotia 

Kiran Mirchandani 
University of Toronto 

GraceAnn Rosile 

New Mexico State University 

Robert K. Yin 
COSMOS Corporation 


Case Study 

Albert J. Mills 

Saint Mary's University Halifax, Nova Scotia 

Gabrielle Durepos 

St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia 

Elden Wiebe 

The King's University College, Edmonton, Alberta 



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A SAGE Reference Publication 

Copyright © 2010 by SAGE Publications, Inc. 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, 
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 

Encyclopedia of case study research/edited by Albert J. Mills, Gabrielle Durepos, and Elden Wiebe. 

v. cm. 
Includes bibliographical references and index. 
ISBN 978-1-4129-5670-3 (cloth) 

1. Social sciences — Research — Methodology — Encyclopedias. 2. Case method — Encyclopedias. 
I. Mills, Albert J., 1945- II. Durepos, Gabrielle. III. Wiebe, Elden. 

H62.E582 2010 
001.4'32— dc22 


This book is printed on acid-free paper. 

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Volume 1 

List of Entries vii 

Reader's Guide xiii 

About the Editors xix 

Contributors xxiii 

Introduction xxxi 
























Volume 2 

List of Entries 


























Appendix 975 
Selected Bibliography: Case Study Publications by Contributing Authors 983 

Index 991 

List of Entries 


Action-Based Data Collection 

Activity Theory 

Actor-Network Theory 



Analysis of Visual Data 

Analytic Generalization 

Anonymity and Confidentiality 

Anonymizing Data for Secondary Use 


Archival Records as Evidence 


Audiovisual Recording 


Authenticity and Bad Faith 

Author Intentionality 



Base and Superstructure 

Bayesian Inference and Boolean Logic 

Before-and-After Case Study Design 

Blended Research Design 

Bounding the Case 


Case Selection 

Case Study and Theoretical Science 

Case Study as a Methodological 

Case Study as a Teaching Tool 
Case Study Database 
Case Study in Creativity Research 
Case Study Protocol 
Case Study Research in Anthropology 

Case Study Research in Business and 

Case Study Research in Business Ethics 
Case Study Research in Education 
Case Study Research in Feminism 
Case Study Research in Medicine 
Case Study Research in Political Science 
Case Study Research in Psychology 
Case Study Research in Public Policy 
Case Study Research in Tourism 
Case Study Surveys 
Case Study With the Elderly 
Case-to-Case Synthesis 
Case Within a Case 
Causal Case Study: Explanatory 

Chicago School 
Chronological Order 
Class Analysis 

Codifying Social Practices 
Coding: Axial Coding 
Coding: Open Coding 
Coding: Selective Coding 
Cognitive Biases 
Cognitive Mapping 
Collective Case Study 
Communicative Action 
Communicative Framing Analysis 
Community of Practice 
Comparative Case Study 
Comparing the Case Study With Other 


List of Entries 

Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative 

Data: ATLAS.ti 
Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative 

Data: CAITA (Computer- Assisted 

Interpretive Textual Analysis) 
Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative 

Data: Kwalitan 
Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative 

Data: MAXQDA 2007 
Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative 

Data: NVIVO 
Concatenated Theory 
Concept Mapping 
Conceptual Argument 
Conceptual Model: Causal Model 
Conceptual Model: Operationalization 
Conceptual Model in a Qualitative Research 

Conceptual Model in a Quantitative 

Research Project 
Configurative-Ideographic Case Study 
Congruence Analysis 
Consciousness Raising 
Consent, Obtaining Participant 
Constant Causal Effects Assumption 
Content Analysis 
Contentious Issues in Case 

Study Research 
Contribution, Theoretical 
Conversation Analysis 

Critical Discourse Analysis 
Critical Incident Case Study 
Critical Pedagogy and 

Digital Technology 
Critical Realism 
Critical Sensemaking 
Critical Theory 

Cross-Case Synthesis and Analysis 
Cross-Sectional Design 
Cultural Sensitivity and Case Study 


Data Resources 

Decentering Texts 

Decision Making Under Uncertainty 


Deductive-Nomological Model of Explanation 

Depth of Data 
Descriptive Case Study 
Deviant Case Analysis 
Diagnostic Case Study Research 
Dialectical Materialism 
Dialogic Inquiry 
Diaries and Journals 
Direct Observation as Evidence 
Discourse Analysis 
Discourse Ethics 
Discursive Frame 
Dissertation Proposal 
Docile Bodies 
Document Analysis 
Documentation as Evidence 
Double Hermeneutic 

Ecological Perspectives 




Ethnographic Memoir 





Event-Driven Research 

Exemplary Case Design 



Explanation Building 

Explanatory Case Study 

Exploratory Case Study 

Extended Case Method 

Extension of Theory 

Extreme Cases 

Factor Analysis 



Fiction Analysis 

Field Notes 

Field Work 

Formative Context 

Frame Analysis 

Front Stage and Back Stage 



List of Entries 

Going Native 
Grounded Theory 

Healthcare Practice Guidelines 


High-Quality Analysis 

Historical Materialism 

Holistic Designs 








Informant Bias 

Institutional Ethnography 

Institutional Theory, Old and New 

Instrumental Case Study 

Integrating Independent Case Studies 

Interactive Methodology, Feminist 

Intercultural Performance 

Interpreting Results 




Intrinsic Case Study 



Iterative Nodes 

Masculinity and Femininity 

Means of Production 

Medical Decision Making Under Uncertainty. 

See Decision Making Under Uncertainty 
Mental Framework 

Method of Agreement 
Method of Difference 
Middle-Range Theory 
Mixed Methods in Case Study Research 

Modes of Production 
Most Different Systems Design 
Multidimensional Scaling 
Multimedia Case Studies 
Multimethod Research Program 
Multiple-Case Designs 
Multiple Selfing 
Multiple Sources of Evidence 
Multi-Site Case Study 

Narrative Analysis 


Native Points of View 

Naturalistic Context 

Naturalistic Generalization 

Naturalistic Inquiry 

Natural Science Model 

Negotiated Order 

Network Analysis 

Nonparticipant Observation 

North American Case Research Association 

Number of Cases 


Knowledge Production 

Language and Cultural Barriers 
Langue and Parole 
Layered Nature of Texts 
Liberal Feminism 
Life History 

Limited-Depth Case Study 
Longitudinal Research 

Macrolevel Social Mechanisms 
Management of Impressions 



One-Dimensional Culture 


Ordinary Troubles 

Organizational Culture 


Outcome-Driven Research 



Paradigmatic Cases 
Paradigm Plurality in Case 

Study Research 
Participant Observation 
Participant Rights. See Subject Rights 

List of Entries 

Participatory Action Research 

Participatory Case Study 


Pattern Matching 

Pedagogy and Case Study 


Personality Tests 


Philosophy of Science 


Pluralism and Case Study 

Polar Types 





Poststructuralist Feminism 




Practice-Oriented Research 




Probabilistic Explanation 

Problem Formulation 

Process Tracing 

Processual Case Research 

Program Evaluation and Case Study 

Program-Logic Model 

Prospective Case Study 

Qualitative Analysis in Case Study 

Qualitative Comparative Analysis 

Quantitative Analysis in Case Study 

Quantitative Single-Case Research Design 

Quasi-Experimental Design 


Quick Start to Case Study Research 

Radical Empiricism 

Radical Feminism 

Random Assignment 


Real-Time Cases 

Re-Analysis of Previous Data 


Regulating Group Mind 

Relational Analysis 


Repeated Observations 

Reporting Case Study Research 
Researcher as Research Tool 
Researcher-Participant Relationship 
Research Framework 
Research Objectives 
Research Proposals 
Research Questions, Types of 
Retrospective Case Study 
Re-Use of Qualitative Data 
Rhetoric in Research Reporting 
Rival Explanations 


Scientific Method 

Scientific Realism 

Secondary Data as Primary 

Self-Confrontation Method 



Sensitizing Concepts 

Serendipity Pattern 


Signifier and Signified 

Sign System 


Single-Case Designs 

Situational Analysis 

Social-Interaction Theory 

Socialist Feminism 

Socially Distributed Knowledge 

Spiral Case Study 

Standpoint Analysis 

Statistical Analysis 

Statistical Generalization 

Statistics, Use of in Case Study 





Subject Rights 

Substantive Theory 

Symbolic Interactionism 

Symbolic Value 

Symbolic Violence 

Temporal Bracketing 


Textual Analysis 

List of Entries 

Thematic Analysis 
Theoretical Saturation 
Theory, Role of 
Theory-Building With Cases 
Theory-Testing With Cases 
Thick Description 

Use of Digital Data 




Visual Research Methods 

Webs of Significance 
Within-Case Analysis 
Writing and Difference 

Reader's Guide 

The Reader's Guide is provided to assist readers in locating articles on related topics. It classifies articles 
into nine general topical categories: Academic Disciplines; Case Study Research Design; Conceptual 
Issues; Data Analysis; Data Collection; Methodological Approaches; Theoretical Traditions; Theory 
Development and Contributions From Case Study Research; and Types of Case Study Research. Entries 
may be listed under more than one topic. 

Academic Disciplines 

Case Study Research in Anthropology 
Case Study Research in Business and 

Case Study Research in Business Ethics 
Case Study Research in Education 
Case Study Research in Feminism 
Case Study Research in Medicine 
Case Study Research in Political Science 
Case Study Research in Psychology 
Case Study Research in Public Policy 
Case Study Research in Sociology 
Case Study Research in Tourism 
Case Study With the Elderly 
Ecological Perspectives 
Healthcare Practice Guidelines 
Pedagogy and Case Study 

Case Study Research Design 

Before-and-After Case Study Design 
Blended Research Design 
Bounding the Case 
Case Selection 
Case-to-Case Synthesis 
Case Within a Case 
Comparative Case Study 
Critical Incident Case Study 

Cross-Sectional Design 

Decision Making Under Uncertainty 

Deductive-Nomological Model of Explanation 

Deviant Case Analysis 

Discursive Frame 

Dissertation Proposal 


Event-Driven Research 

Exemplary Case Design 

Extended Case Method 

Extreme Cases 

Healthcare Practice Guidelines 

Holistic Designs 


Integrating Independent Case Studies 


Longitudinal Research 

Mental Framework 

Mixed Methods in Case Study Research 

Most Different Systems Design 

Multimedia Case Studies 

Multiple-Case Designs 

Multi-Site Case Study 

Naturalistic Inquiry 

Natural Science Model 

Number of Cases 

Outcome-Driven Research 

Paradigmatic Cases 

Paradigm Plurality in Case Study Research 

Reader's Guide 

Participatory Action Research 
Participatory Case Study 
Polar Types 
Problem Formulation 
Quantitative Single-Case 

Research Design 
Quasi-Experimental Design 
Quick Start to Case Study Research 
Random Assignment 
Research Framework 
Research Objectives 
Research Proposals 
Research Questions, Types of 
Rhetoric in Research Reporting 

Socially Distributed Knowledge 
Spiral Case Study 
Statistics, Use of in Case Study 
Temporal Bracketing 
Thematic Analysis 
Theory, Role of 
Theory-Testing With Cases 

Conceptual Issues 



Authenticity and Bad Faith 

Author Intentionality 

Case Study and Theoretical Science 

Contentious Issues in 

Case Study Research 
Cultural Sensitivity and Case Study 
Dissertation Proposal 
Ecological Perspectives 

Masculinity and Femininity 

Pluralism and Case Study 


Researcher as Research Tool 


Data Analysis 


Bayesian Inference and Boolean Logic 


Case-to-Case Synthesis 

Causal Case Study: Explanatory Theories 

Chronological Order 

Coding: Axial Coding 

Coding: Open Coding 

Coding: Selective Coding 

Cognitive Biases 

Cognitive Mapping 

Communicative Framing Analysis 


Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative Data: 

Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative Data: 

CAITA (Computer- Assisted Interpretive 

Textual Analysis) 
Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative Data: 

Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative Data: 

MAXQDA 2007 
Computer Based Analysis of Qualitative Data: 

Concept Mapping 
Congruence Analysis 
Constant Causal Effects Assumption 
Content Analysis 
Conversation Analysis 
Cross-Case Synthesis and Analysis 
Decision Making Under Uncertainty 
Document Analysis 
Factor Analysis 
Fiction Analysis 
High- Quality Analysis 

Interactive Methodology, Feminist 
Interpreting Results 
Iterative Nodes 
Knowledge Production 
Method of Agreement 
Method of Difference 

Reader's Guide 

Multidimensional Scaling 


Pattern Matching 

Re-Analysis of Previous Data 

Regulating Group Mind 

Relational Analysis 


Re-Use of Qualitative Data 

Rival Explanations 

Secondary Data as Primary 

Serendipity Pattern 

Situational Analysis 

Standpoint Analysis 

Statistical Analysis 


Temporal Bracketing 

Textual Analysis 

Thematic Analysis 

Use of Digital Data 


Webs of Significance 

Within-Case Analysis 

Data Collection 

Action-Based Data Collection 

Analysis of Visual Data 

Anonymity and Confidentiality 

Anonymizing Data for Secondary Use 

Archival Records as Evidence 

Audiovisual Recording 


Case Study Database 

Case Study Protocol 

Case Study Surveys 

Consent, Obtaining Participant 


Critical Pedagogy and Digital Technology 

Cultural Sensitivity and Case Study 

Data Resources 

Depth of Data 

Diaries and Journals 

Direct Observation as Evidence 

Discourse Analysis 

Documentation as Evidence 


Fiction Analysis 

Field Notes 

Field Work 

Going Native 

Informant Bias 

Institutional Ethnography 


Iterative Nodes 

Language and Cultural Barriers 

Multiple Sources of Evidence 

Narrative Analysis 


Naturalistic Context 

Nonparticipant Observation 



Participant Observation 

Participatory Action Research 

Participatory Case Study 

Personality Tests 

Problem Formulation 



Regulating Group Mind 


Repeated Observations 

Researcher-Participant Relationship 

Re-Use of Qualitative Data 

Sensitizing Concepts 


Subject Rights 

Theoretical Saturation 


Use of Digital Data 


Visual Research Methods 

Methodological Approaches 

Activity Theory 

Actor-Network Theory 



Base and Superstructure 

Case Study as a Methodological 

Class Analysis 

Codifying Social Practices 
Communicative Action 
Community of Practice 

Reader's Guide 

Comparing the Case Study With Other 

Consciousness Raising 
Critical Discourse Analysis 
Critical Sensemaking 

Decentering Texts 
Dialogic Inquiry 
Discourse Ethics 
Double Hermeneutic 
Ethnographic Memoir 

Formative Context 
Frame Analysis 
Front Stage and Back Stage 
Grounded Theory 

Institutional Theory, New and Old 
Langue and Parole 
Layered Nature of Texts 
Life History 

Management of Impressions 
Means of Production 

Modes of Production 
Multimethod Research Program 
Multiple Selfing 
Native Points of View 
Negotiated Order 
Network Analysis 
One-Dimensional Culture 
Ordinary Troubles 
Organizational Culture 
Paradigm Plurality in Case Study Research 

Practice-Oriented Research 



Qualitative Analysis in Case Studies 

Qualitative Comparative Analysis 

Quantitative Single-Case Research Design 

Quick Start to Case Study Research 

Self-Confrontation Method 




Signifier and Signified 

Sign System 


Social-Interaction Theory 



Symbolic Value 

Symbolic Violence 

Thick Description 

Writing and Difference 

Theoretical Traditions 

Case Study and Theoretical Science 

Chicago School 



Critical Realism 

Critical Theory 

Dialectical Materialism 




Formative Context 

Frame Analysis 

Historical Materialism 


Liberal Feminism 



North American Case Research Association 


Paradigm Plurality in Case Study Research 

Philosophy of Science 

Pluralism and Case Study 





Reader's Guide 

Poststructuralist Feminism 
Radical Empiricism 
Radical Feminism 

Scientific Method 
Scientific Realism 
Socialist Feminism 
Symbolic Interactionism 

Program Evaluation and Case Study 
Reporting Case Study Research 
Rhetoric in Research Reporting 
Statistical Generalization 
Substantive Theory 
Theory-Building With Cases 
Theory-Testing With Cases 

Theory Development and Contributions 
From Case Study Research 

Analytic Generalization 



Concatenated Theory 

Conceptual Argument 

Conceptual Model: Causal Model 

Conceptual Model: Operationalization 

Conceptual Model in a Qualitative Research 

Conceptual Model in a Quantitative Research 

Contribution, Theoretical 
Docile Bodies 
Explanation Building 
Extension of Theory 

Instrumental Case Study 
Macrolevel Social Mechanisms 
Middle-Range Theory 
Naturalistic Generalization 

Probabilistic Explanation 
Process Tracing 

Types of Case Study Research 


Case Studies as a Teaching Tool 

Case Study in Creativity Research 

Case Study Research in Tourism 

Case Study With the Elderly 

Collective Case Study 

Configurative-Ideographic Case Study 

Critical Pedagogy and Digital Technology 

Diagnostic Case Study Research 

Explanatory Case Study 

Exploratory Case Study 


Institutional Ethnography 

Instrumental Case Study 

Intercultural Performance 

Intrinsic Case Study 

Limited-Depth Case Study 

Multimedia Case Studies 

Participatory Action Research 

Participatory Case Study 

Pluralism and Case Study 


Processual Case Research 

Program Evaluation and Case Study 

Program-Logic Models 

Prospective Case Study 

Real-Time Cases 

Retrospective Case Study 

Re-Use of Qualitative Data 

Single-Case Designs 

Spiral Case Study 


About the Editors 

Albert J. Mills, PhD (professor, management), is 
Director of the PhD (management) program at 
Saint Mary's University (Nova Scotia, Canada). 
Leaving school at 15, his early images of organi- 
zation — of frustration, power disparities, conflict, 
and sexually segregated work — were experienced 
through a series of unskilled jobs and given 
broader meaning through campaigns for peace, 
social justice, and human liberation. An early con- 
cern with discrimination led him to an interest in 
the relationship between knowledge (how a sense 
of self is developed), history (the contexts in which 
selves are constructed), and human liberation 
(how we are constrained by contextualized knowl- 
edge). He has pursued this focus through active 
involvement in a series of scholarly organizations, 
and more than 250 publications, culminating in 
work on a book (with Gabrielle Durepos) on 
ANTi-history — a liberationist approach to (past) 

Mills's feminist work ranges from involvement 
on university equity committees, leadership roles 
in the Gender and Diversity in Organizations divi- 
sions of the Academy of Management (AoM) and 
the Administrative Sciences Association of Canada 
(ASAC), and membership on the editorial boards 
of Equal Employment International and Gender, 
Work and Organization (associate editor). His 
books on gender and diversity include Gendering 
Organizational Analysis (1992), Managing the 
Organizational Melting Pot (1997), Gender, 
Identity, and the Culture of Organizations (2002), 
Identity Politics at Work (2004), and Sex, Strategy, 
and the Stratosphere: The Gendering of Airline 
Cultures (2006). 

Mills's commitment to social change has led 
him to involvement in Critical Management Studies 

(CMS), as stream organizer at several international 
CMS conferences, and as chair of the CMS 
Division of the Academy of Management. He is 
currently on the editorial boards of Organization, 
Tamara (Critical Postmodern Studies), the 
Canadian Journal of Administrative Sciences (as 
CMS editor), and the Journal of Workplace Rights. 
His books in the field include Organizational 
Rules (1991), Reading Organization Theory (1995, 
1999, 2005), and Organizational Behaviour in a 
Global Context (2007). 

Finally, Mills's interest in knowledge has led 
him to explorations of management education and 
the role of research strategies, including historiog- 
raphy, case study, and postpositivist research 
methods. In terms of management education, he 
has served as an active researcher and executive 
member of several organizations, including ASAC 
(as president), the Atlantic Schools of Business, 
and the International Federation of Scholarly 
Associations of Management. In terms of research 
strategies, he is currently on the editorial boards of 
Qualitative Research in Management and 
Organizations (associate editor) and Management 
and Organizational History, and is completing two 
books — Business Research Methods and Darkside 
of Business Case Studies, which explores the use of 
teaching with cases. He is also engaged in a series 
of ongoing case studies and histories of airline 
companies, and histories of management thought 
and scholarly associations in North America. 

Gabrielle Durepos is an assistant professor at 
St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia, Canada, 
where she teaches organizational behavior. Grow- 
ing up in a 20th-century Western society that saw 
the rise of dominant grand narratives, Durepos has 

About the Editors 

been continuously fascinated by the process in 
which knowledge assumes a status of "truth" and 
the subsequent potential of that knowledge to gov- 
ern an entire society's meaning-making activities. 
The central strand that bounds all of her research 
interests is "knowledge," including knowledge 
production, legitimation, and dispersion. Her 
research interests are far-ranging and include his- 
tory (knowledge of the past) and historiography 
(how one creates knowledge of the past), the soci- 
ology of knowledge, epistemology, the philosophy 
of the natural sciences, the cold war and its influ- 
ence on management thought and knowledge, 
organizational ethics (a collective shared knowl- 
edge of what are deemed "good" and "bad" 
behaviors in organizations), and the development 
of methodologies. 

Durepos has recently been engaged in the craft- 
ing of an alternative approach to historiography 
that offers the potential to craft organizational 
histories, as well as to historicize research and 
knowledge. Termed ANTi-history, the historio- 
graphic approach has been developed through 
meticulous archival research and offers scholars 
specific advice on the rigorous use of the archive. 
Though the present application of ANTi-history is 
based on archival materials from the Pan American 
Airways archive at the Otto Richter Library, she 
and Albert Mills have planned its future applica- 
tion in terms of theorizing the influence of the cold 
war (as based on archival materials from the 
Tamiment Library) on management thought in 
Canada and the United States. 

Durepos has published her work in peer- 
reviewed journals, including Management & 
Organizational History and Journal of Management 
History. She has played an active role in the orga- 
nization of the Atlantic Schools of Business con- 
ference and is an associate editor for the Canadian 
Journal of Administrative Sciences. 

Elden Wiebe, PhD, is an associate professor 
of business, department of management and com- 
merce, The King's University College, Edmonton, 
Alberta, Canada. He is currently developing 
and combining three central research interests. 
Organizational change is one central research 
focus, an interest that grew from having worked in 
contexts where significant organizational change 

was desperately needed but never undertaken, 
and where significant organizational change 
had occurred only to be reversed within a few 
years, thereby again incurring the same problems 
that the original change had resolved. Temporal 
embeddedness is a second research focus, specifi- 
cally time in the context of organizing, organiza- 
tions, and organizational change. Observing and 
personally experiencing the tyranny of the clock in 
human relations has led him to pursue under- 
standings of time that extend beyond the singular 
expression of time as a technology symbolized by 
the clock. His third research focus is spirituality, 
which stems from his long-standing involvement 
in Christian spirituality, developed over years of 
participation in organizations dedicated to address- 
ing justice, human well-being, and the spirit. This 
has led him to research the growing phenomenon 
of spirituality in the workplace. 

Wiebe's recent work has combined his inter- 
ests in organizational change and time. His 
research investigates individual managerial tem- 
poral sensemaking and how it affects managers' 
implementation of change and their individual 
response to the change as they construct it. This 
work is the focus of his recently completed dis- 
sertation. An earlier version of the theory chapter 
from the dissertation won the Doctoral Student 
Scholarship at the Future of Time in Management 
and Organizations conference (INSEAD), spon- 
sored by the International Network for Time in 
Management and Organization, the Center for 
Creative Inquiry located in San Francisco, and 
the Organizational Behavior and Organizational 
Development and Change divisions of the 
Academy of Management. Work with colleagues 
on investigation of organizational change 
(methodology) has been published in R. Lunes, 
A. Langley, and I. Stensaker (Eds.), Handbook of 
Organizational Change and Learning. His cur- 
rent work on time/temporality and change exam- 
ines how the relationship between family 
physicians and patients is being shaped by the 
emphasis on efficiency, a phenomenon based in 
clock time, in the context of increasing wait 
times within publicly funded healthcare services. 
Work with colleagues on the regionalization of 
healthcare services has been published in 
Healthcare Quarterly. 

About the Editors 

Wiebe's commitment to spirituality has led 
to combining his interests in spirituality and 
organizational change. He is currently involved in 
a Social Sciences and Humanities Research 
Council-funded grant examining why and how 
spirituality is incorporated into the workplace, and 
what effect it has on employees and the workplace. 

His initial work with colleagues has been pub- 
lished in the Journal of Management Inquiry. 

Wiebe is a member of the Academy of 
Management and the Administrative Sciences 
Association of Canada. He is also an active sup- 
porter of the Center for Spirituality and the 
Workplace at Saint Mary's University. 


Iiris Aaltio 

University of Jyvaskyla, Finland 

Clem Adelman 
Independent Scholar 

Maria Aggestam 

Lund University, Sweden 

Annette J. Ahern 

St. Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia 

Rafael Alcadipani 

Fundacdo Getulio Vargas — Escola de 

Administracao de Empresas de Sao Paulo 

Isabel Altamirano-Jimenez 
University of Alberta 

John Amis 

University of Memphis 

Thillai Rajan Annamalai 

Indian Institute of Technology Madras 

Maribel Aponte 

University of Puerto Rico, EducArTec, Inc. 

Marie-Jose Avenier 

Universite Pierre Mendes France-Grenoble 

J. I. (Hans) Bakker 
University of Guelph, Ontario 

Subhabrata Bobby Banerjee 
University of Western Sydney 

Elizabeth M. Banister 
University of Victoria 

Data D. Barata 

University of Northern British Columbia 

Constance A. Barlow 
University of Calgary 

Lee Bartel 
University of Toronto 

B. Raewyn Bassett 
Dalhousie University, Halifax 

Deborah L. Begoray 
University of Victoria 

Alan Belk 

University of Guelph, Ontario 

Namita Bhatnagar 
University of Manitoba 

Pam Bishop 

University of Calgary 

Alex Bitektine 

Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales, 

Inge Bleijenbergh 

Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands 

David Michael Boje 

New Mexico State University 

Wanda Boyer 
University of Victoria 

Alexander Brem 

VEND Consulting GmbH, Niirnberg 

xxiv Contributors 

Lace Marie Brogden 

University of Regina, Saskatchewan 

Donald Bruce 

University of Guelph, Ontario 

Boris H. J. M. Brummans 

Universite de Montreal 

Janet M. C. Burns 
University of New Brunswick 

Elizabeth Cairns 

University of Prince Edward Island 

Shelagh Campbell 

Saint Mary's University, Halifax 

Adrian Carr 

University of Western Sydney 

Julian Castro-Rea 
University of Alberta 

Brian Caterino 
Independent Scholar 

Didier Chabaud 

Ecole de Management Normandie, 
University of Cergy Pontoise 

Dongshin Chang 

University of Guelph, Ontario 

Colin Chasteauneuf 

University of Northern British Columbia 

Linda Chmiliar 

Athabasca University, Alberta 

Adele E. Clarke 

University of California, San Francisco 

Annabel J. Cohen 

University of Prince Edward Island 

Michael Corbett 

Acadia University, Nova Scotia 

Joep Cornelissen 
Leeds University 

Marian Court 

Massey University, New Zealand 

Cassandra S. Crawford 
Northern Illinois University 

Susan Crichton 
University of Calgary 

Hari Das 

Saint Mary's University, Halifax 

Benet Davetian 

University of Prince Edward Island 

Annette Davies 
University of Cardiff 

Ryan J. Davis 

University of Maryland 

Jane Dawson 

St. Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia 

Katerina Deliovsky 
Brock University, Ontario 

Hulya Demirdirek 
University of Victoria 

Constance deRoche 

Cape Breton University, Nova Scotia 

John Estano deRoche 

Cape Breton University, Nova Scotia 

MariaLaura Di Domenico 
Open University 

Carla DiGiorgio 

University of Prince Edward Island 

Hans Doorewaard 

Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands 

Jan Dul 

Rotterdam School of Management 

Gabrielle Durepos 

St. Francis Xavier Univsersity, Nova Scotia 


Kelly Dye 

Acadia University, Nova Scotia 

Margaret Dykeman 
University of New Brunswick 

Margaret Edwards 
Athabasca University, Alberta 

Fred Eidlin 

University of Guelpb, Ontario 

Tony Elger 
University of Warwick 

Julia Ellis 
University of Alberta 

Leona M. English 

St. Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia 

Paivi Eriksson 

University of Kuopio, Finland 

Jeanine C. Evers 

Universiteit Voor Humanistiek, Utrecht 

Loren Falkenberg 
University of Calgary 

Peer Christian Fiss 

University of Southern California 

Margaret Fletcher 
University of Glasgow 

Janice R. Foley 

University of Regina, Saskatchewan 

William M. Foster 
University of Alberta 

Martin Fougere 

Hanken School of Economics, Finland 

Maria Jose Freitas 

Hogeschool Zuyd, the Netherlands 

Carol Fulton 

University of Regina, Saskatchewan 

Liesl L. Gambold 

Dalhousie University, Halifax 

Robert Gebotys 

Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario 

Patricia Genoe McLaren 

Saint Mary's University, Halifax 

Robert P. Gephart, Jr. 
University of Alberta 

Olivier Germain 

Ecole de Management Normandie 

Silvia Gherardi 
University of Trento, Italy 

J. Tim Goddard 
University of Calgary 

Steven J. Gold 
TUI University 

John Goldring 

University of Salford, Greater Manchester 

Maria Gondo 
University of Memphis 

Gina Grandy 

Mount Allison University, New Brunswick 

Arlene Haddon 

Saint Mary's University, Halifax 

Tony Hak 

Rotterdam School of Management 

Ralph Hanke 

Bowling Green State University 

Lorelei Hanson 

Athabasca University, Alberta 

Henry Harder 

University of Northern British Columbia 

L. Lynda Harling Stalker 

St. Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia 

xxvi Contributors 

Elizabeth Harlow 

University of Salford, Greater Manchester 

Frank Harrison 

St. Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia 

John Hassard 
University of Manchester 

Pia Heilmann 

Lappeenranta University of Technology, 

Martin Hewson 

University of Regina, Saskatchewan 

Ellen Hijmans 

Radboud University Nijmegen, 
the Netherlands 

Sandra P. Hirst 
University of Calgary 

Angela Hope 

Saint Mary's University, San Antonio 

Aine M. Humble 

Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax 

Margot Hurlbert 

University of Regina, Saskatchewan 

David Carroll Jacobs 

Morgan State University 

Milton Jacobs 

State University of New York-New Paltz 

Roy Stager Jacques 

Massey University, New Zealand 

JoAnn Jaffe 

University of Regina, Saskatchewan 

Markku Jahnukainen 

University of Alberta 

Kam Jugdev 

Athabasca University, Alberta 

Helena Kadlec 
University of Victoria 

Gada Kadoda 
Bournemouth University 

Frans Kamsteeg 

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 

Mihaela Kelemen 

Keele University, Staffordshire 

Andrew D. Kitchenham 

University of Northern British 

Michael Kompf 

Brock University, Ontario 

Hubert Korzilius 
Radboud University Nijmegen, 
the Netherlands 

Donna Kotsopoulos 

Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario 

Anne Kovalainen 

Turku School of Economics, Finland 

Don Kuiken 

University of Alberta 

Saville Ian Kushner 

University of the West of England 

Lisa N. LaFramboise 
Laurentian University, Ontario 

Ann Langley 

Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales, 

Judith C. Lapadat 

University of Northern British Columbia 

Cheryl A. Lapp 
Labyrinth Consulting 

Carole Lynne Le Navenec 
University of Calgary 

Jason S. LeCoure 

Saint Mary's University, San Antonio 

Lianne Lefsrud 
University of Alberta 

Contributors xxvii 

Jacqueline P. Leighton 
University of Alberta 

Piia Lepisto-Johansson 
Lappeenranta University of 
Technology, Finland 

Hugo Letiche 

Universiteit Voor Humanistiek, Utrecht 

Pascal Lievre 
Universite d'Auvergne 

Warren Linds 

Concordia University, Montreal 

Sally Lindsay 
University of Salford, 
University of Toronto 

Stephen Andrew Linstead 
University of York 

Feng Liu 

University of British Columbia 

Karen Locke 

College of William and Mary 

Peter John Loewen 
Universite de Montreal 

David A. Lynes 
St. Francis Xavier University, 
Nova Scotia 

K. Doreen MacAulay 

Saint Mary's University, Halifax 

Janet Mackenzie 

University of New Brunswick 

Gregory Rodney Mackinnon 

Acadia University, Nova Scotia 

Colleen MacQuarrie 

University of Prince Edward Island 

Amal Madibbo 
University of Calgary 

Helen Mahoney 
University of Calgary 

Sally Maitlis 

University of British Columbia 

Garance Marechal 
University of Liverpool 

E. Anne Marshall 
University of Victoria 

Verna L. McDonald 

University of Northern British Columbia 

Michelle K. McGinn 
Brock University, Ontario 

John McMurtry 

University of Guelph, Ontario 

Lars Meier 

Technical University of Darmstadt 

Sherri Melrose 

Athabasca University, Alberta 

Sam Migliore 

Kwantlen Polytechnic University, 
British Columbia 

Albert J. Mills 

Saint Mary's University, Halifax 

Jean Helms Mills 

Saint Mary's University, Halifax 

Dolana Mogadime 
Brock University, Ontario 

Andrew Molloy 

Cape Breton University, Nova Scotia 

Fiona Moore 

Royal Holloway University of London 

Ricardo Morais 

Catholic University of Portugal 

Jean-Luc Moriceau 

GET/INT-Management, Universiteit Voor 
Humanistiek, Utrecht 

Anna-Maria Murtola 
Abo Akademi, Finland 

xxviii Contributors 

Philippe Naccache 

Grenoble Ecole de Management 

Marc Nesca 

Athabasca University, Alberta 

Laura E. Nimmon 

University of British Columbia 

Kathleen Nolan 

University of Regina, Saskatchewan 

Hiroko Noro 
University of Victoria 

Mark Nuttall 
University of Alberta 

David O'Donnell 

Intellectual Capital Research Institute 
of Ireland 

Margaret Olson 

St. Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia 

Nilgun Onder 

University of Regina, Saskatchewan 

Hezekiah Uba Orji 
University of Phoenix 

Sarah M. G. Otner 

London School of Economics 

Eriikka Paavilainen 

Turku School of Economics, Finland 

Amy Pablo 

University of Calgary 

Michael P. Pagano 

Fairfield University 

Pekka Palli 

Helsinki School of Economics 

Andie Diane Palmer 

University of Alberta 

Donna Boone Parsons 

Saint Mary's University, Halifax 

T. Paslawski 
University of Alberta 

Barbara L. Paterson 
University of New Brunswick 

Juana Patlan-Perez 
Independent Scholar 

Bernadette M. Pauly 
University of Victoria 

George Pavlich 
University of Alberta 

Beth Perry 

Athabasca University, Alberta 

Vincent Peters 
Kwalitan Advies 

Nelson Phillips 
University of London 

Rebecca Piekkari 

Helsinki School of Economics 

Emmanuella Plakoyiannaki 
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki 

Marilyn Porter 

Memorial University of Newfoundland 

Seppo Poutanen 

University of Turku, Finland 

Ajnesh Prasad 
York University 

Jason Matthew Cameron Price 
University of Victoria 

Vincenza Priola 

Aston University, Birmingham 

Rhonda Pyper 
University of Ottawa 

Helen Raptis 
University of Victoria 

Contributors xxix 

Patricia Rasmussen 

Athabasca University, Alberta 

Emmanuel Raufflet 

Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales, 

Rosemary C. Reilly 

Concordia University, Montreal 

Geraldine Rix 

Universite Blaise Pascal, Auvergne 

Brian A. Roberts 

Memorial University of Newfoundland 

Jason C. Robinson 
University of Guelph, Ontario 

GraceAnn Rosile 

New Mexico State University 

Gretchen B. Rossman 

University of Massachusetts-Amherst 

Adam Rostis 

Saint Mary's University, Halifax 

Isabelle Royer 
Universite de Lille 

Peregrine Schwartz-Shea 
University of Utah 

Marie-Claire Shanahan 
University of Alberta 

Basu Sharma 

University of New Brunswick 

Sandra Singer 

University of Guelph, Ontario 

Bonnie Slade 
York University 

Murray E. G. Smith 
Brock University, Ontario 

Jorge Sousa 
University of Alberta 

Henderikus J. Stam 
University of Calgary 

Lavinia Stan 

Concordia University, Montreal 

Susanne Starke 

University of Bamberg, Germany 

Robert A. Stebbins 
University of Calgary 

Christoph K. Streb 

University of Groningen, the Netherlands 

Chris Street 
University of Manitoba 

Stefan Strohschneider 

University of Jena 

Roy Suddaby 
University of Alberta 

Deirdre Tedmanson 
University of South Australia 

Eli Teram 

Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario 

Amy Thurlow 

Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax 

Janne Tienari 

Helsinki School of Economics 

Vianne Timmons 

University of Regina, Saskatchewan 

Ruthanne Tobin 
University of Victoria 

Cagri Topal 
University of Alberta 

Margaret E. Toye 

Wilfrid Laurier University, Ontario 

Eero Vaara 

Swedish School of Economics and Business 


AnneLoes van Staa 

Rotterdam University, Erasmus University 

James Vardaman 
University of Memphis 

Zsuzsanna Vincze 

Turku School of Economics, Finland 

Peggy Wallace 

Trent University, Ontario 

Neil Michael Walsh 

University of Otago, New Zealand 

Kerry Ward 

University of Nebraska-Omaha 

Terrance G. Weatherbee 
Acadia University, Nova Scotia 

David Weitzner 
York University 

Catherine Welch 

University of Sydney 

Harry Wels 

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 

Fred Wester 

Radboud University Nijmegen, 
the Netherlands 

David Wicks 

Saint Mary's University, Halifax 

Elden Wiebe 

The King's University College 

Jo-Anne H. Willment 
University of Calgary 

Jaana Woiceshyn 
University of Calgary 

Julie Wolfram Cox 

Deakin University, Australia 

Honggen Xiao 
Hong Kong Polytechnic 

Dvora Yanow 

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 

Sierk Ybema 

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam 

Robert K. Yin 
COSMOS Corporation 

Larry D. Yore 
University of Victoria 

Anthony R. Yue 

Saint Mary's University, Halifax 


Case study methodology has a relatively long 
history within the sciences, social sciences, and 
humanities. In sociology, for example, there is 
evidence that the case study approach was being 
"pioneered" at the University of Chicago by 1920, 
as sociologists attempted to illuminate the social 
instance (e.g., the immigrant experience in the 
United States) through detailing the particular 
(e.g., the study of selected Polish immigrants) (see 
Chicago School entry). 

Much of this early case study research was 
incorporated in qualitative research strategies, but 
the tradition also developed as part of quantitative 
and mixed methods research strategies. This was 
true of medical research, for instance, where the 
case study approach dates back to the early 1930s 
and was initially viewed as useful for assisting 
researchers in making valid inferences from events 
outside the lab in ways yet consistent with the rig- 
orous methodology of laboratory science (see Case 
Study Research in Medicine entry). 

Over time the case study approach garnered 
interest across various disciplines as researchers 
sought to illuminate phenomena through detailed 
study of their occurrence in a particular context. 
Today case study research can be found across 
various sciences (see Decision Making Under 
Uncertainty), the humanities (ANTi-History), and 
the social sciences (Case Study Research in Political 
Science), embracing qualitative (Autoethnography) 
and quantitative (Bef or e-and- After Case Study 
Design) research strategies, positivist (Causal Case 
Study: Explanatory Theories) and postpositivist 
approaches (Actor-Network Theory), and the 
practice-oriented fields such as education, manage- 
ment, public administration, and the human ser- 
vices (see, respectively, Case Study Research in 

Education, Case Study Research in Business and 
Management, Case Study Research in Public 
Policy, and Case Study With the Elderly). 

Despite this long history and widespread use, 
case study research has received perhaps the least 
attention among the various research strategies in 
the literature on research strategies. In the social 
sciences, for example, only a few texts deal directly 
with case study as a central subject, and no ency- 
clopedic reference provides a thorough overview 
of design and methods in case study research as 
guidance for students, researchers, and profession- 
als trying to incorporate case studies into a rigor- 
ous research project or program. This encyclopedia 
is intended to be that authoritative resource by 
combining entries from across the social sciences 
and humanities, and encouraging work from 
across the methodological traditions to include 
feminist, poststructuralist, critical, postcolonial, 
interpretive, postmodernist, historical materialist, 
racio-ethnic, as well as positivist entries. 

The development of the Encyclopedia of Case 
Study Research was exciting and challenging. It 
provided an opportunity to expose a large number 
of researchers to the value of case study research, 
but it also offered the challenge of making it inter- 
esting and understandable to as wide an audience 
of researchers as possible. Our challenge has been 
to make case study relevant to researchers at vari- 
ous stages of their careers — from student to sea- 
soned academic; across philosophic divides — from 
positivism to postpositivism; across disciplines as 
diverse as music and anthropology; across the 
international divide; and from qualitative to quan- 
titative researchers, as well as those interested in 
mixed methods. In the process, we also hoped that 
the encyclopedia would appeal to the end users of 

xxxii Introduction 

research. Thus, we drew on a vast number of con- 
tacts and networks to encourage contributions 
from case study scholars from various disciplines 
and philosophical orientations across the globe. 
We were aided in our endeavors by an interna- 
tional editorial board consisting of many of the 
leading researchers in the field. Our hope is that 
we have succeeded in our overall aim of providing 
an accessible but far-reaching encyclopedia that 
will become not only a valuable resource but will 
encourage new and renewed interest in case study 
research as well. 

The Encyclopedia of Case Study Research (two 
volumes, approximately 1,100 printed pages) pro- 
vides a comprehensive compendium covering the 
important methodological issues encountered in 
doing case study research, and exploring both their 
strengths and weaknesses from different paradig- 
matic approaches. The focus is on the distinctive 
characteristics of case study strategies and their 
place within and alongside other research strate- 
gies. From beginning to end, this work covers the 
spectrum, addressing such overarching themes and 
general topic areas as: 

• The scientific method 

• Comparing the case study with other research 

• The role of theory in case study research 

• Types of case studies (e.g., explanatory, 
exploratory, descriptive) 

• Case studies within various disciplinary contexts 
(psychology, business, etc.) 

• Designing case study research 

• Principles of data collection with case study 

• Conducting case studies 

• Analyzing case study evidence 

• Composing case study reports 

• Evaluating the quality of case study research 
design and findings 

• Using case studies as one part of a multimethod 
research program 

In the spirit of different research traditions, we 
have avoided standardization of certain terms and 
concepts, which in some cases are capitalized and 
in others not; and in some places are italicized for 
emphasis and in others not. 

Defining Case Study Research 

Defining case study research is both easy and prob- 
lematic. It is problematic because the very essence 
of our approach of bringing together case study 
researchers from across the paradigmatic divides 
and across various disciplines means that any defi- 
nition needs to be all encompassing. As you will 
find throughout the encyclopedia, definitions of 
case study vary across disciplines, especially accord- 
ing to the underlying philosophies (or paradigms) 
involved. On the other hand, there are common 
threads across all the entries that allowed us to 
make decisions about what was and was not an 
applicable entry on case study research. Thus, in 
the process of developing an all-inclusive work we 
constructed a particular view of what it is that 
constitutes case study. 

Simply put, case study is a research strategy 
whose characteristics include 

• a focus on the interrelationships that constitute 
the context of a specific entity (such as an 
organization, event, phenomenon, or person), 

• analysis of the relationship between the 
contextual factors and the entity being studied, 

• the explicit purpose of using those insights (of 
the interactions between contextual relationships 
and the entity in question) to generate theory 
and/or contribute to extant theory. 

Here we propose four noteworthy points con- 
cerning our description of the case study: First, and 
foremost, our definition, like all definitions, serves 
to limit the object of inquiry but hopefully in a way 
that is not too restrictive. Second, as such, our 
definition should be taken as a heuristic, or sense- 
making device, for guiding, rather than dictating, 
your understanding of case study research. 
Nonetheless, in keeping with the philosophy of our 
approach, our definition — like all definitions — 
should be viewed as a social construction for making 
sense of the common threads across contributions. 
Our definition is not meant to be definitive nor 
authoritative to the exclusion of other equally valid 
definitions. Third, we have chosen to call case 
study a research strategy rather than a method or 
methodology. Method implies a research tool, such 
as surveys, interviews, or observations, and case 

Introduction xxxiii 

study cannot be reduced to a single method. 
Methodology can refer to the use of a particular 
method or methods and the theoretical frame- 
work that informs its use. To take the example of 
interviewing: Some researchers may use interviews 
as a method for finding out what people actually 
think about something, while poststructuralist 
researchers may use interviews to assess how 
powerful ideas in practice (e.g., employment 
equity, privatization, fitness) influence the way 
people think and treat something as knowledge. 
Case study can involve any combination of meth- 
odologies and methods and so is perhaps better 
described as a strategy to capture the decision 
making that goes into developing a particular case 
study. Fourth, we have linked our definition to 
the focus, form of analysis, and explicit purpose 
of the research strategy. In other words, a case 
consists of a focus on the link between a specific 
entity and its supposed contextual interrelation- 
ships, and on what the link can tell us about either 
the uniqueness of the case or its generalizability to 
comparable relationships. 

How to Use the 
Encyclopedia of Case Study Research 

The encyclopedia consists of 357 entries arranged 
in alphabetical order over two volumes. Each entry 
provides the reader with an overview of a specific 
topic or issue in case study research. In each entry, 
readers will first find a definition of the headword 
followed by a conceptual overview and discussion 
of key issues pertaining to that headword. Since we 
were particularly concerned with the doing of case 
study research, readers will typically find an appli- 
cation of the headword, either in terms of a direct 
description of "how to" or in the form of a 
description of an example of a case study that 
embodies the headword. The identification of a 
specific case study where the headword is applied 
is especially useful, since it grounds the headword 
in an actual case study and provides readers with 
a concrete example, which they can later consult as 
an additional reference material. Each entry con- 
cludes with a critical summary that reflectively 
raises additional issues of which practitioners of 
case study research should be aware. Finally, fur- 
ther insight into the headword is then provided 

through a list of cross-references to other relevant 
headwords in the encyclopedia and a list of refer- 
ences for further in-depth investigation. 

The encyclopedia contains an entry titled Case 
Study as a Methodological Approach. Unlike 
other entries, which deal with specific aspects of 
case study research, this entry provides an over- 
view of case study research. It does, however, 
share with all other entries an underlying philoso- 
phy that informs its approach and should be read 
in that vein. 

An additional feature of the encyclopedia read- 
ers will find helpful is the Reader's Guide, located 
in the front matter of each volume. The Reader's 
Guide organizes all entries under nine thematic top- 
ics for easy reference. For example, readers may 
wish to turn first to an overview of case study 
research within their discipline. The Reader's Guide 
lists each discipline addressed under the heading of 
Academic Disciplines. Other categories include 
TheoreticalTraditions,Methodological Approaches, 
Types of Case Study Research, Case Study Research 
Design, Data Collection, Data Analysis, Theory 
Development and Contributions From Case Study 
Research, and Conceptual Issues. Each entry in the 
encyclopedia will be listed under at least one of 
these broad thematic headings. 

At the end of the encyclopedia (in Volume 2) 
we have included a section called "The Fun and 
Value of Case Study Research." Here we asked 
contributors to share their sense of the enjoyment 
as well as the value of case study research. The 
result is a selected group of five researchers who 
share their views of how case study research can 
be as meaningful and as much fun as it is rigorous 
and methodical. Our aim here is to provide a dif- 
ferent way of "getting inside" the case study 
researcher's viewpoint. Linked to these contribu- 
tions is a section called "Favorite Cases" where 
contributors share their opinions on the case stud- 
ies that have influenced their own work and think- 
ing. Here you will find an array of views and 
further information on the types of case studies 
that influence case study researchers. Our aim is to 
provide a different way of exposing readers to the 
importance of case study research and a guide to 
further reading. 

Finally, we provide a list of case studies selected 
by many of the contributors and editors of the 

xxxiv Introduction 

encyclopedia. This allows readers to follow up on 
selected themes, to explore the work of contribu- 
tors, and to gain a sense of the depth of expertise 
involved in the two-volume work, and provides 
another resource for further reading. 


An encyclopedia encompassing such breadth and 
depth — breadth of disciplines, philosophical para- 
digms, and geographic situatedness of case studies, 
and depth of experience, knowledge, and insight 
into case study research — could not have been pro- 
duced without the gracious and careful efforts of 
practitioners of case study research worldwide. We 
as an editorial team have been humbled by their com- 
mitment to the case study strategy, by their insight 
into doing case study research, and by their com- 
mitment to the people and issues that formed the 
focus of their own respective case studies. To all 
who contributed to the encyclopedia, we are espe- 
cially grateful. 

We are also particularly thankful for the out- 
standing (and this word is understated) contribu- 
tion of our managing editor, Marion Weatherbee. 
Marion has brought exceptional organizational 

skills to this endeavor, freeing and focusing us as 
editors to do the work of editing. 

We have also been blessed to work with a 
superb team at SAGE. James Brace-Thompson, 
who first proposed the encyclopedia to us, has 
been a constant source of support, encouragement, 
enthusiasm, and energy. Carole Maurer, our devel- 
opmental editor, has worked closely with us to 
gauge our progress, helping us to find ways to 
continue to move forward in a timely fashion and 
assisting us with myriad questions and issues over 
the course of developing the encyclopedia. Our 
expressed thanks do not adequately convey our 
depth of appreciation for you. Finally, Laura 
Notton and Leticia Gutierrez have provided invalu- 
able support through the Sage Reference Tracking 
System, which has made a logistical monster into a 
benign house cat. 

In conclusion, we are grateful for our readers, 
both novice and seasoned researchers, who wish to 
learn about or further develop their abilities in case 
study research. It is because of you that this has 
been a labor of love. 

Albert J. Mills, Gabrielle Durepos, 
and Elden Wiebe 


Abduction is the process of forming a possible 
explanation involving an imaginative effort to 
understand on the part of beings acting and learn- 
ing in a world. It is a practical reasoning mode 
whose purpose is to invent and propose ideas and 
explanations that account for surprises and unmet 
expectations. Within the context of scientific 
endeavors, abduction is the basis for the inventive 
construction of new ideas, explanatory proposi- 
tions, and theoretical elements. Its importance lies 
in highlighting the discovery dimension of research, 
especially the central role played by puzzles, 
hunches, speculation, imagination, guesswork, 
and the like, in the process of developing theoreti- 
cal insights. This entry provides an overview of 
the process and its application. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

In the late 1800s the founder of pragmatism and 
polymath, Charles Sanders Peirce, distinguished 
abduction as a third form of inference necessary for 
a more complete understanding of the processes of 
intelligent inquiry. Deduction, as the form of neces- 
sary reasoning from which we derive specific 
observations from generalizations, has dominated 
Western scientific thinking for over 2,000 years. 
Not quite as long lived, induction, as the form of 
probabilistic reasoning from which we derive gen- 
eralizations from specific observations, has been a 
feature of modern science for some 700 years. 

About a century ago, Peirce suggested that there 
is a broad class of reasoning that is neither deduc- 
tive nor inductive but involves inferences from 
effects to causes. He pointed out that both deduc- 
tion and induction are closed with reference to the 
concepts in play. Another form of reasoning was 
needed to generate new concepts; he came to call 
this form of reasoning abduction. Not to be con- 
fused with inference to the best explanation, which 
begins from already established hypotheses, abduc- 
tion is the mode of inference aimed at developing 
new ideas. Its basic formula is 

The surprising fact, C is observed: 

But if A were true, C would be a matter of course, 

Hence, there is reason to suspect that A is true 

As the presented formula for abduction indi- 
cates, it is an inherently transactional process and 
the element of surprise plays a critical role in 
stimulating it. The surprise may be relatively 
active, as when one makes an effort to anticipate a 
particular result that does not occur, or it may be 
passive, as when a situation presses itself on one's 
consciousness. When expectations fall short in 
some way, abduction is triggered. A central tenet 
of Peirce's epistemology is that all thinking behav- 
iors, from perception to logical and mathematical 
reasoning, are mediated by signs. Consequently an 
observation's status as "fact" or as "surprising," 
and as the impetus to abduction, is never given 
purely; it is always mediated by modes of percep- 
tion, by background perspectives and theories. Its 


surprising character exists only with respect to 
certain expectations held under certain circum- 
stances. Surprise signals a need and an opportunity 
to invent a new way of understanding. 

Stimulated by surprise, abduction is involved 
when scientists struggle for new kinds of intelli- 
gible patterns in observations — that is, when 
they strive to generate a possible "A." The strug- 
gle may involve many possible imaginative ele- 
ments, including hunches, guesses, conjectures, 
associations, metaphors, speculations, proposi- 
tions, models, and so on. Furthermore, abduc- 
tion need not occur in the context of existing 
language because the formation of new explana- 
tions often goes hand in hand with the develop- 
ment of new or newly combined theoretical 
terms such as "quark," "AIDS," and "garbage 
can model of decision making." As a form of 
reasoning, it is suppositional, suggesting only 
what "may be." However, abduction's value and 
weakness are two sides of the same coin. It is 
weak in the sense that the "might be's" enter- 
tained are highly permissive; yet that very per- 
missiveness is the source of inventiveness. What 
at first blush may seem irrelevant, just a loose 
notion or even nonsensical, may be the beginning 
of novel ways of understanding. 

For some time, the notions of abduction and 
discovery were controversial issues in the philoso- 
phy of science following the claim that the inven- 
tion of new ideas, concepts, or theories are chance 
occurrences and, therefore, inappropriate to epis- 
temological considerations. Karl Popper, for exam- 
ple, was one of the most outspoken critics of the 
idea of a reasoning process for creating novel pos- 
sibilities. Increasingly, however, philosophers of 
science and researchers recognize that emphasis 
has been placed on validation, and they are now to 
a greater extent attending to discovery processes as 
part of the work of doing science. 


Abduction is not a new approach to analysis and 
interpretation. Ironically, the process of abduction 
has likely been a critical part of most interesting 
theorizing from case research. Perhaps due to the 
long-standing bias against discovery within the phi- 
losophy of science, or due to the apparent inconsis- 
tency between the received view of scientific method 

and the character of the abductive process, or 
because case researchers have traditionally sub- 
sumed abductive work under the category of induc- 
tion, it has remained hidden. Accounts of the 
theorizing process in methodology texts and also in 
the methods sections of published journal articles 
generally present theorizing as a validation exercise 
in which conjectural and imaginative processes play 
no role. 

Clarifying abduction has several implications 
for how we think about theorizing. First, it calls 
attention to the imaginative dimension of theoriz- 
ing, in legitimizing the role played by permissive 
exploration grounded in the particulars of detailed 
observations to the development of theoretical 
insights. It underscores that hunches, guesses, 
speculations, and loose notions are all essential ele- 
ments in the theorizing process, and it attests to the 
value of being deliberately expansive and playful 
in thinking with observations. 

Second, from the perspective of abduction, 
observations or data are a resource for possible 
puzzles and speculation. Detailed observations 
generated through the research process are treated 
as potential indicators of some processes, struc- 
tures, or characterizations. Third, it highlights the 
importance of all departures from expectation to 
generating insights, for example, surprises, puz- 
zles, and glitches. Indeed, it suggests that research- 
ers should actively court situations that somehow 
do not square with their expectations and precon- 
ceived notions because, in Howard Becker's 
terms, not knowing what one has a case of is 
highly productive for one's research efforts. 
Fourth, clarifying abduction highlights that the 
lived experience of theorizing is messy, half-blind, 
wasteful, difficult to articulate, and lengthy. 
Observations are made, hunches occur, ideas are 
developed and are tried out in relation to existing 
or new observations, they are modified or set 
aside, new ideas are developed, and so on. If 
abduction is permissive, then false conjectures 
and blind alleys are necessarily part of the pro- 
cess. Abduction is fallible. 

Finally, as a permissive and fallible process, 
abduction must occur in recursive interplay with 
deduction and induction in order to arrive at plau- 
sible theoretical insights. Ideas have to be articu- 
lated and worked out in relation to one's generated 
data and what one already knows. 

Action-Based Data Collection 

Critical Summary 

Deduction and induction provide an inadequate 
conceptual vocabulary to account for the process 
through which new theoretical insights are gener- 
ated. Specifically, the concept of abduction is 
needed to highlight the everyday imaginative work 
central to interesting theorizing. 

Karen Locke 

See also Deductive-Nomological Model of Explanation; 
Inductivism; Knowledge Production; Metaphor; 
Reflexivity; Scientific Method 

Further Readings 

Agar, M. (2006). An ethnography by any other name . . . 
[149 paragraphs]. Forum QualitativeSozialforschung/ 
Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 7(4), Art. 36, 
retrieved March 30, 2009, from http://www 

Fann, K. T. (1970). Peirce's theory of abduction. The 
Hague, the Netherlands: Martinus Nijhoff. 

Locke, K. (2007). Rational control and irrational free- 
play: Dual thinking modes as necessary tension in 
grounded theorizing. In A. Bryant & K. Charmaz 
(Eds.), The Sage handbook of grounded theory 
(pp. 565-579). London: Sage. 

Locke, K., Golden-Biddle, K., & Feldman, M. (2004). 
Imaginative theorizing in interpretive organizational 
research. In D. Nagao (Ed.), Best paper proceedings 
of the 64th Annual Meeting of the Academy of 
Management, pp. B1-B6. 

Semiotica. (2005). Special issue on abduction 
(F. Merrell & J. Quieroz, Eds.), 153(1/4). 

Van Maanen, J., Sorensen, J., & Mitchell, T. (2007). 
Introduction to special topic forum: The interplay 
between theory and method. Academy of Management 
Review, 32(4), 1145-1154. 

Action-Based Data Collection 

Action-based data focus on what research partici- 
pants do in their day-to-day activities. Who does 
what, when, where, and how captures the essence 
of this focus. Questions of why may also be 
addressed. Any form of data may be collected, 
including interviews, observations, and documents 

that show evidence of action that occurs in the 
case. The role of the researcher may be anywhere 
along a continuum from detached observer to 
participant observer to full participant, with the 
research taking various forms from ethnographic 
case study to a case of action research in which, by 
researching their own practice, researchers are full 
participants. This entry provides an overview of 
the process and its application. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Action-based data collection takes place in the 
natural context of the case and is usually a cyclical 
process occurring over time. Two collection sys- 
tems are discussed here that work nicely together: 
James Spradley's descriptive question matrix helps 
illuminate what to focus on as action-based data; 
Herbert Altrichter, Peter Posch, and Bridget 
Somekh give several suggestions for ways to col- 
lect these data. 

Spradley, along with others, suggests beginning 
with "grand tour" observations that give the 
researcher an initial sense of the parameters of the 
case that can provide pointers for what to focus on 
in the next cycle. Spradley suggests nine dimen- 
sions of any social situation that provide a compre- 
hensive map for action-based data collection: 

1. Space: the physical place or places 

2. Actor: the people involved 

3. Activity: a set of related acts people do 

4. Object: the physical things that are present 

5. Act: single actions that people do 

6. Event: a set of related activities that people 
carry out 

7. Time: the sequencing that takes place over time 

8. Goal: the things people are trying to accomplish 

9. Feeling: the emotions felt and expressed (p. 78, 
italics in original) 

Spradley uses these dimensions to create a 9 x 9 
Descriptive Question Matrix, which then leads to 
81 specific questions, including the following: 

Activity x Activity: Can you describe in detail all 
the activities? 

Action-Based Data Collection 

Activity x Goal: What activities are goal seeking or 
linked to goals? 

Act x Space: What are all the ways space is 
organized by acts? 

Event x Time: How do events fall into time periods? 

Time x Event: How do events occur over time? Is 
there any sequencing? 

Objects x Acts: What are all the ways objects are 
used in activities? 

There are several advantages to using a matrix 
like this. It helps broaden the researcher's attention 
to several social dimensions that might be ignored 
and helps focus attention on specific action-related 
details. The grand tour can also point the way to 
areas that may provide more fruitful detail for the 
case under study. As can be seen from the detail 
described, carrying out action-based data collec- 
tion can be time intensive if the researcher hopes to 
capture the range of actions over time. The time 
frame may be bounded by the case study focus. 

Altrichter, Posch, and Somekh suggest several 
ways to collect data for action research that work 
well in any action-based data collection process, 
pointing out that the research question will deter- 
mine what may become data. Existing data provide 
evidence of past events and include such things as 
documents and physical traces such as wear and 
tear on furniture and objects, materials available to 
everyone or only certain people, signage, sales 
slips, and so on. These data have high credibility 
because they were created as part of the day-to-day 
business of case participants rather than only for 
research purposes. However, it is important to col- 
lect only what is relevant to the present research. 

Another category of action-based data collection 
is the systematic observations and documentation 
of situations. Because situations are dynamic and 
action filled, it is important for researchers to 
choose a clear focus before the observation period 
starts by deciding what they will observe, why they 
are observing this particular phenomenon, and 
when and for how long this particular observation 
will take place. Because actions happen quickly, it is 
useful to prepare an observation protocol format. 

For example, when wanting to observe the 
hand-raising/discussion pattern in a classroom, 
making a diagram of the desks, then using symbols 

such as F for female and M for male, indicating a 
backslash (/) on the desk when a comment is made 
and a question mark (?) when a question is asked, 
a check mark when a correct answer is given, and 
an "x" when one is not. This provides a clear, 
focused, efficient way to collect action-based data. 
This protocol can be filled in during the observa- 
tion and then fleshed out more fully after the 
actual observation with comments on kinds of 
questions and comments, gender balance, sugges- 
tions for further systematic observations, and any- 
thing else pertinent to the research. 

Protocols can be created for any kind of observa- 
tion. Using other people as observers can give fresh 
perspectives. Photographs, videos, and audiotapes 
also provide ways to collect action-based data, as 
does observation of trace materials. For example, 
participants' self-reports of alcohol consumption 
to the researcher might not match what is found in 
their garbage or recycle bins. Observing wear on 
things such as steps and elevator buttons is an unob- 
trusive way to document indications of human activ- 
ity. Finally, interviewing participants in the case can 
help elucidate underlying meanings of the actions as 
well as provide new data sources to explore. 


Altrichter, Posch, and Somekh point out that what 
is produced or selected is influenced by the 
researcher's point of view and that data are static 
because of their material nature (e.g., a photo- 
graph), thus removing the dynamic reality of 
actions and events. They also point out that the 
data collected are not reality itself, but only traces 
left behind. Perhaps the most important thing 
Altrichter, Posch, and Somekh describe is their 
Ladder of Inference. They describe three steps: 

1. Relatively unambiguous observational data 
(e.g., "The teacher said to the pupil, 'J orm > 
your work is poor.'") 

2. Culturally shared meaning (e.g., The teacher 
criticizes John) 

3. Meaning of a sentence for a specific listener 
(e.g., The teacher is not empathizing with John) 

Data collection needs to be as close as possible 
to what is seen and heard with inferences and inter- 
pretations left for a later step. Three nonleading 

Activity Theory 

action-based questions that can open initial discus- 
sion with participants in a case are: What are you 
doing? Why are you doing that? How is it going? 
Documents and physical trace evidence can also be 
used to start initial interviews with participants. 
Participants can also provide information that 
could lead researchers to documents and other 
things of which the researcher may have been 
unaware. To increase validity, action-based data 
need to be collected at different times as well as 
from different participants and perhaps different 
places, depending on the focus of the case. 

Dennis Greenwood and Del Lowenthal differenti- 
ate between positivistic and hermeneutic points of 
view, each of them capable of leading to very different 
purposes and foci for collecting action-based data. 
For example, an action research case study takes on 
a different analytic dimension from an ethnographic 
case. If the purpose of an ethnographic case study is 
to understand the phenomenon as it occurs, the pur- 
pose of an action research case study is to examine 
one's own practice in order to improve it. 

Critical Summary 

Action-based data collection can provide authentic 
on-the-spot data that are richly descriptive of the 
case. Action-based data collection can help uncover 
dynamic complexity and show various nuances of 
the case that increase understanding of the phe- 
nomena. However, researchers need to ensure they 
have collected enough data over a long enough 
time period to create a valid and reliable case. 
Researchers can never collect "all" the data, so 
they need to be aware of and share the perspectives 
they were using at the time of data collection. 
Researchers also need to pay special attention to 
Altrichter, Posch, and Somekh's Ladder of Inference, 
being cautious about moving too quickly from 
description to interpretation. 

Margaret Olson 

See also Contextualization; Field Notes; Holistic Designs; 
Naturalistic Context 

Further Readings 

Altrichter, H., Posch, P., & Somekh, B. (1993). Teachers 
investigate their work: An introduction to the methods 
of action research. London: Routledge. 

Greenwood, D., & Lowenthal, D. (2005). Case study as 
a means of researching social work and improving 
practitioner education. Journal of Social Work 
Practice, 19(2), 181-193. 

Spradley, J. (1980). Participant observation. New York: 
Holt, Rinehart & Winston. 

Activity Theory 

Activity theory is a framework for understanding 
collective processes undertaken in pursuit of some 
higher goal. It has its roots in the writing of Karl 
Marx and Lev Vygotsky and was conceived, as 
activity theory, by Alexei Leont'ev. From this the- 
oretical perspective, the key unit of analysis is the 
activity, generally a sustained societal activity such 
as farming, schooling, environmentalism, or bank- 
ing rather than a short-term event such as a class- 
room lesson or one-off interaction between people. 
Activity systems (communities engaged in activi- 
ties) are understood through attention to their: 
subject (the individual or group engaged in activ- 
ity), object (the goal of the activity with its atten- 
dant motivations), actions (processes undertaken 
to reach the objective), and operations (the under- 
lying and often unconscious microprocesses that 
make up actions). 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Activity theory has been described as one of the 
best-kept academic secrets. Despite its origins in 
the early 20th century, Wolff-Michael Roth, in a 
search of Social Sciences Citation Index, found that 
the majority of literature published in the Americas 
and Europe on the concept has been published in 
the past two decades. Its use has increased dra- 
matically since the early 1990s in many areas of 
social science, including anthropology, education, 
psychology, and human-computer interaction. 

The concept at the core of activity theory is that 
the individual-in-context does not merely react to 
his or her surroundings but has the power to act to 
change his or her actions and therefore change the 
community and the surroundings. Conversely, par- 
ticipation in a community is commensurate with 
change in one's participation and therefore consti- 
tutes learning. From this perspective, learning is 

Activity Theory 

conceived as mutual change of subject and object 
through engagement in activity. 

Consistent with this core principle, all aspects of 
an activity system are understood to exist in dialec- 
tic — the mutual exchange between theoretically 
opposite components such as subject and object. 
Therefore, though we identify constituent parts, none 
can be understood without attending to the others. 

One of the key frameworks for understanding 
activity requires attention to subject, object, action, 
and operation. Subject refers to an individual or a 
group with a defined and shared goal. It is impor- 
tant to clarify that when a group or community is 
understood as the subject, the goal must be shared 
and continue to be shared. Individuals are not a 
community simply by being located together in 
time or space. Object, taken in the same sense as 
the noun objective, refers to the understanding, 
held by the subject, of the purpose of the activity. 
It provides the motivation and direction for the 
activity. For example, a group of teachers and 
administrators at a school may be thought to 
engage in the activity of schooling. The group is 
the subject and the motivations and goals that they 
share constitute the object. The object in this activ- 
ity system may be different from that of another 
group of teachers also engaged in the activity of 
schooling because it is defined by the shared objec- 
tives of the particular community. On the other 
hand, one may consider all teachers and adminis- 
trators in a society as a community (the subject) 
with a different set of shared objectives (the object) 
engaged in the activity of schooling. Understanding 
through activity requires careful definition of these 
terms and of the activity, subject, and object under 

Once the subject and object are defined, atten- 
tion can be turned to the actions — the processes 
undertaken by the individuals or community mem- 
bers toward the achievement of the object. They 
are considered conscious and chosen with the 
object in mind. For an individual, there are many 
different actions that may be undertaken to achieve 
the same object. Similarly, individuals in a com- 
munity may undertake different actions, depend- 
ing on their strengths and abilities, in pursuit of the 
object. Through different actions they each con- 
tribute to the achievement of the object. 

The final aspect is that of operations — the 
unconscious microscale procedures that make up 

conscious actions. These are aspects of carrying 
out actions that have been practiced and com- 
pleted so often that they are routinized and not 
attended to explicitly. For example, the action of 
letter writing as part of the activity of activism 
does not require the subject to attend to the micro- 
processes of how to turn on the computer, how to 
access word processing software, or how to use the 
keys to type. These are the operations that consti- 
tute the action of letter writing. 

It is important to note that aspects of the system 
can change their meaning. For example, actions 
can become operations as they are practiced and 
eventually routinized. Bonnie Nardi proposes the 
analogy of gear shifting. For those familiar with 
gear shifting in a car, at first it is a conscious action 
undertaken to accomplish the object of operating 
the car, but in time it becomes an unconscious 
operation conducted to arrive at a destination. 
Similarly, operations can become actions if they 
are impeded in some way and the subject must 
return conscious attention to them. For example, a 
change from driving a small car to a large com- 
mercial vehicle may force the subject to once again 
attend consciously to the use of the clutch and gear 
shifting patterns. 

In addition, objects can be transformed in the 
process of an activity as subjects change and learn. 
For example, teachers working together to address 
a new student population (as part of the activity of 
schooling) may begin with particular goals, but as 
they learn about the students they may extend and 
shift their focus, thereby changing their object. 

None of these relations (between subject, object, 
actions, and operations) are strictly linear or fixed. 
They exist in dialectic. They are, however, stable 
beyond the moment. Changes that occur are not 
trivial; changes in object can effect fundamental 
change in the activity. For example, large-scale 
changes in teachers' objects can fundamentally 
change the activity of schooling. 

To understand these relationships, Yrjo 
Engestrom proposed a model in the form of 
embedded triangles. The model focuses on the 
ways in which subject and object are related to 
each other and the ways in which their relationship 
is mediated by artifacts (e.g., tools, language, sym- 
bols), rules, the community, and the division of 
labor. This heuristic is an effective way of under- 
standing and analyzing the dialectics that form an 

Activity Theory 

activity system. It also connects modern interpreta- 
tions of activity systems to the philosophical foun- 
dations of activity theory. 

The founders of activity theory are generally 
agreed to be Lev S. Vygotsky, Alexei N. Leont'ev, 
and Alexander R. Luria, psychologists working in 
the 1920s and 1930s to understand the connection 
between individual and surroundings. Vygotsky, in 
particular, was critical of educational psychologists 
treating learning processes in the isolation of an indi- 
vidual's brain. For Vygotsky, the unit of analysis was 
action by a subject in pursuit of an object as medi- 
ated by tools and symbols (including language). 

Leont'ev, Vygotsky's student, added to this a 
careful reading of Karl Marx's posthumously pub- 
lished Theses on Feuerbacb. In it, Marx argued 
that neither pure materialism nor pure idealism is 
sufficient to explain change. Materialism cannot 
attend to human agency, and idealism locates 
everything in the minds of individuals. The distinc- 
tion between collective activity and individual 
action was an important one for Leont'ev. His 
work addressed the important impact of mediation 
by people and social relationships, not only by 
artifacts. Leont'ev made the primary unit of analy- 
sis the evolving activity, including an expanded 
understanding of the mediated relationships 
between subject and object. 

With this connection to Vygotsky, it is impor- 
tant to distinguish between activity theory and 
other ways of approaching individuals-in-context 
who have shared history, including situated action 
and distributed cognition. In arguing for activity 
theory as an appropriate framework for studying 
context in the field of human-computer interac- 
tions, Nardi focuses on the differences in the unit 
of analysis for each of these three approaches. In 
particular, she focuses on the way in which the 
object is understood. In activity theory, the object 
is constructed and held by the subject. It is the 
dialectic relationship between the two that forms 
the basis of the theory. Distributed cognition takes 
the system goal to be abstract and not held within the 
consciousness of the individual. Like activity theory's 
object, however, the system goal is still considered 
as the key organizing aspect of the system. Situated 
action, in contrast, takes goals as retrospective 
constructions — descriptions of our motives created 
after the fact. Situated action takes the perspective 
that activity and its values are co-constructed in 

the moment — we are thrown into ongoing activi- 
ties that direct our actions more than we engage in 
intentionality located actions. Activity theory, on 
the other hand, ascribes agency to the subjects to 
construct objects and undertake (socially medi- 
ated) actions to achieve them. 


In attempting to study or apply activity theory 
there is often a tension regarding whether it should 
be approached primarily as an explanatory con- 
cept to address why activities are the way they are 
or as a methodology, a way of approaching the 
study of activities. It is used in both ways, often by 
the same authors, and defined in a general sense 
that allows for both conceptualizations. For exam- 
ple, Roth defines it as a resource for theorizing, 
a road-map, and a metatheory for understanding 
complex situations. Engestrom's triangle is often 
used as a heuristic for analysis, to aid in the identi- 
fication of the components of the activity system. 

In all of these approaches, however, it is primar- 
ily a case study method that is used to understand 
subject-object activity relationships. The focus on 
the individual-in-context means that case studies 
are one of the most appropriate ways of examining 
individuals and activity systems. 

One common approach is the activity-level case 
study. For example, in 2002 Kirsten Foot used a 
single case study of a community (the Network for 
Ethnological Monitoring and Early Warning, a 
network of post-Soviet conflict monitors) to 
explore object construction. She focused on the 
way the community object was constructed in the 
discourse of the participants. She highlighted that, 
contrary to her initial impressions of scattered 
individual objectives, the network was a function- 
ing activity system organized around a single, 
though complex, object. 

Another approach is that of the individual-level 
case study. For example, Anna Pauliina Rainio, in 
her 2008 study of agency in schools, presents the 
case of Anton, a 7-year-old boy, as he is engaged in 
joint narrative construction with his class and 
teacher. She profiles how he tests and expands his 
classroom agency through his participation and 
traces his trajectory from resistance to engagement. 
This case study hits at the heart of activity theory — 
change in activity through individual participation 

Actor-Network Theory 

and change in the individual though participation 
in the activity. Anton's trajectory is understood 
through this lens. 

Finally, researchers may also use multiple case 
studies to explore the ways in which different com- 
munities engage in the same activity. In other 
words, they focus on different activity systems ori- 
ented to the same activity. For example, Andreas 
Lund, in a 2008 study of assessment practices, 
explores two different communities (student teach- 
ers assessing exam papers in an online environ- 
ment, and secondary school students conducting 
peer assessments) engaged in the activity of assess- 
ment. Because they are different communities they 
include different subjects, potentially with differ- 
ent objects and both similar and different mediat- 
ing tools, rules, and community relationships. 
Lund uses the cases to establish these communities 
as activity systems and assessment as a mediated 
collective practice. The communities, despite their 
differences, are therefore engaged in a common 
socially mediated activity: assessment. 

These are typical of activity theory analyses 
with general goals of understanding communities 
as activity systems, exploring the constituents of 
activity (e.g., subjects, object, actions, operations), 
and understanding changes at both the subject and 
the activity level. 

Critical Summary 

Activity theory is a framework for understanding 
and analyzing collective goal-oriented processes. 
It focuses on the mediated relationships between 
subjects (individuals and communities) and objects 
within the context of societal activities. Harry 
Daniels, however, has asserted that for it to reach 
its potential as a framework, researchers must pay 
greater attention to further development of the 
theory, in particular to conceptualizing the ways in 
which the structural aspects (e.g., rules and sym- 
bols) are produced. Others, such as Hamsa Venkat 
and Jill Adler, criticize it for not having the capac- 
ity to attend sufficiently to the experiences of 
individuals, especially the differences between indi- 
viduals participating in the same activity. Despite 
these concerns, it is a strong theoretic framework 
that attends to mediation not only through lan- 
guage and tools but through rules, social interac- 
tions, and relationships. The general unit of 

analysis, the activity system and its parts existing 
in dialectic, provides a complex frame for under- 
standing human actions. 

Marie-Claire Shanahan 

See also Agency; Community of Practice; Complexity; 
Macrolevel Social Mechanisms; Social-Interaction 

Further Readings 

Engestrom, Y., Miettinen, R., & Punamaki, R.-L. (Eds.). 

(1999). Perspectives on activity theory. Cambridge, 

UK: Cambridge University Press. 
Foot, K. A. (2002). Pursuing an evolving object: A case 

study in object formation and identification. Mind, 

Culture, and Activity, 9, 132-149. 
Leont'ev, A. N. (1978). Activity, consciousness, and 

personality. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. 
Lund, A. (2008). Assessment made visible: Individual and 

collective practices. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 15, 

Marx, K., & Engels, F. (1968). The German ideology. 

Moscow: Progress. 
Nardi, B. A. (1996). Studying context: A comparison of 

activity theory, situated action models, and distributed 

cognition. In B. A. Nardi (Ed.), Content and context: 

Activity theory and human-computer interaction. 

Cambridge: MIT Press. 
Rainio, A. P. (2008). From resistance to involvement: 

Examining agency and control in a playworld activity. 

Mind, Culture, and Activity, 15, 115-140. 
Roth, W.-M. (2004). Activity theory and education: An 

introduction. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 11, 1-8. 
Roth, W.-M., & Lee, Y.-J. (2007). "Vygotsky's neglected 

legacy": Cultural-historical activity theory. Review of 

Educational Research , 77, 186-232. 
Venkat, H., & Adler, J. (2008). Expanding the foci of 

activity theory: Accessing the broader contexts and 

experiences of mathematics education reform. 

Educational Review, 60(2), 127-140. 
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development 

of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: 

Harvard University Press. 

Actor-Network Theory 

Originating in studies of science, technology, and 
society (STS), actor-network theory (ANT) — or the 

Actor-Network Theory 

sociology of translation, according to Michel Callon 
and Bruno Latour — is an increasingly popular 
sociological method used within a range of social 
science fields. ANT gains much of its notoriety 
through advocating a sociophilosophical approach 
in which human and material factors are brought 
together in the same analytical view. In attempting 
to comprehend complex situations, ANT rejects 
any sundering of human and nonhuman, social, 
and technical elements. In a much-cited article, 
Callon warns, for example, of the dangers of chang- 
ing register when we move from concerns with the 
social to those of the technical. The methodological 
philosophy is that all ingredients of socio-technical 
analysis be explained by common practices. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

A key ANT notion is that of the heterogeneous 
network, John Law has described this as a manner 
of indicating that entities (e.g., society, organiza- 
tions, machines) are effects generated in networks 
of different materials (e.g., humans and nonhu- 
mans). Also, Law suggests that while entities in 
their broadest sense are usually conceived of as 
having stability and uniqueness, ANT, in contrast, 
advocates that they are essentially a result achieved 
when different heterogeneous elements are assem- 
bled together. As such, the ANT approach, for 
Law, suggests that things take form and acquire 
attributes as a consequence of their relations with 
others. As ANT regards entities as produced in 
relations, and applies this ruthlessly to materials, it 
can be thus understood, according to Law, as a 
semiotics of materiality. 

As for ANT, entities always exist in networks of 
relations, this approach suggests that it is not pos- 
sible to conceive of actors as in some way separable 
from networks, and vice versa. Following Callon, 
actor-networks oscillate between that of an actor 
and that of a network as they engage in sociopoli- 
tics, enroll heterogeneous actants, and thus con- 
tinuously transform and redefine their constitution. 
This is so because the activity of actors and net- 
works is interdependent. For example, for Law, 
all attributes usually ascribed as human (thinking, 
loving, acting, etc.) are generated in networks 
comprising materially heterogeneous networks 
that either pass through or have ramifications 
beyond the body. 

In this way, a central feature of ANT is to 
explain how ordering effects — such as devices, 
organizations, agents, and even knowledge — are 
generated. Its major focus, at least in its original 
formulation, is to investigate how entities are per- 
formed and kept stable. As a consequence, ANT 
analyzes the strategies through which entities 
are generated and held together. For Barbara 
Czarniawska and Tor Hemes, it tries to unravel 
the forces that keep actors as one, showing in the 
process how they are networks that need to be 
reproduced moment by moment. 

Motivated by such concerns, for Latour and 
Law, ANT implies that organizations and their 
components are effects generated in multiple inter- 
actions, rather than existing merely in the order of 
things. Organization is perceived as continuous 
and unfinished, precarious, and partial — a perma- 
nent process that generates more or less stable 
effects; a heterogeneous emergent phenomenon; a 
verb. According to John Law and Bob Cooper, 
analyzing organization(s) in this form — stressing 
that the noun organization can exist only as a con- 
tinuous result of organizing — challenges what 
mainstream organization studies (OS) approaches 
usually accept as given or taken for granted. Thus, 
as suggested by Brian Bloomfield and Theo 
Vurdubakis, analyzing organizing via ANT is to 
attempt to address by which means a diffuse and 
complex system composed of humans and nonhu- 
mans becomes networked (for this approach, orga- 
nizations are outcomes and products of continuing 
process — relations and practices that are materi- 
ally complex and whose ordering can be addressed, 
locally and empirically, only as in-the-making). 

To analyze ordering in the making, ANT has 
deployed concepts such as immutable mobiles and 
action at a distance. Immutable mobiles have the 
capacity to fix knowledge and allow it to be dis- 
seminated far beyond its point of origin. They rep- 
resent, for instance, lengthy processes of translating 
information (e.g., on location in an ocean, a terri- 
tory's size and shape, virus behavior) into objects 
that can be carried while retaining shape (e.g., 
maps, spatial coordinates, sketches, graphics). 

By extension, the possibility of acting at a dis- 
tance implies control at a distance and relies on the 
alignment of documents, devices, maps, and so 
forth. In so doing, it relies on establishing a materi- 
ally heterogeneous network, one that permits 


Actor-Network Theory 

movement and immutability, simultaneously allow- 
ing something previously unknown to become 
acted upon and controlled. Both of these notions — 
immutable mobiles and acting at a distance — were 
central to well-known early ANT case studies, 
such as the history of Portuguese maritime expan- 
sion and contemporary scientists at work. These 
were case studies that subsequently influenced a 
number of early ANT studies on organization, 
accounting, and information — studies that suggest 
issues of organization and control have long been 
at the heart of ANT. 

A further key concept deployed in ANT-inspired 
analysis is translation, which is for Callon and 
Latour the work through which actors modify and 
displace their multiple and contradictory interests. 
For Callon, translation is the mechanism by which 
things take form through displacements and trans- 
formations; for example, when actors' identities, 
the possibilities of their interaction, and the limits 
of their maneuver are negotiated and delimited. 
Put basically, as suggested by Law, translation pro- 
cesses see entities that are, traditionally, categori- 
cally differentiated transformed into ones that are 
in some ways analytically equivalent, this repre- 
senting one of the main epistemological tools used 
to analyze the establishment of actor-networks. 

Callon offers a description of this process. 
For him, translation is composed of four different 
moments — namely, problematization (or the inter- 
definition of actors), interessement (or how allies 
are locked into place), enrollment (or how to 
define and coordinate roles), and the mobilization 
of allies (or who speaks in the name of whom? and 
who represents whom?). Drawing implicitly or 
explicitly on this way of portraying translation, a 
number of case studies on organizational issues 
have been conducted (together with a series of 
kindred studies on information systems and infor- 
mation technology). 

A detailed description of translation in Callon's 
terms, however, can sound rather prescriptive for a 
reflexive processual approach such as ANT. More 
characteristic perhaps is Latour's view that ANT 
reflects a philosophy that: aims to analyze ordering 
as complex outcomes of multiple materials, has 
a strong relational focus that suggests a kind of 
material semiotics, and declares that a specific 
ordering process is but one possibility among 
many. Proposing general rules or aspects of how 

translation takes place can be seen as imposing a 
particular view of how actors get assembled into 
networks, this being particularly problematic when 
such a model is replicated incessantly in case stud- 
ies. Such method therefore seems alien to one of 
the key ANT mandates: the need to follow actors 
without imposing preconceived templates or defi- 
nitions on them. In this context, ANT-inspired 
analysis has been accused of providing a simplistic 
view of ordering, one that may influence the 
potential of this approach being considered critical 
for management and organization studies. 

ANT studies have also been criticized for offer- 
ing what seems to be a simplistic way of portraying 
ordering processes. This critique can be clearly 
linked to translation notions, which appear to pro- 
vide evidence for a framework that can portray 
many different cases without any adjustment, that 
is, in terms that appear to explain almost every- 
thing from vaccines to failed aircraft projects. As 
ANT seems incapable of considering how socio- 
logical translations can differ, it thus fails to address 
any variation among processes of ordering, accord- 
ing to Olga Amsterdamska. Even one of the main 
proponents of ANT notes that studies based on the 
translation notion can, on the one hand, fail to 
address how the links that constitute translation 
are made, while on the other assume similarity 
among different links, thus limiting ANT's capacity 
to grasp complexity. Similarly for Steve Brown, 
whereas recent sociological uses of translation tend 
to stem from the work of Michel Serres, under 
ANT the notion suggests a representational aspect 
that fails to account for the figural and nondiscur- 
sive dimension present in Serres's philosophy. 

As scholars adopting an ANT position have 
drawn heavily on the notion of translation to theo- 
rize aspects of organizing, such studies may, there- 
fore, have been underscored by the idea that 
organizing processes in a variety of empirical set- 
tings can be accounted for by simply following 
Callon's four-moments recipe. As a result, instead 
of being thoroughly and richly explained, a variety 
of specific organizing processes are described in a 
nice and tidy way, thus oversimplifying what needs 
to be explained. Not surprisingly, some have sug- 
gested that ANT has often been used as method- 
ological description — as a way to describe and 
label different actors in a given context. As a con- 
sequence, for them, it is possible to question to 

Actor-Network Theory 


what extent ANT ontology has been understood 
and taken seriously by scholars in OS. By arguing 
that actor-networks become irreversible once trans- 
lation is accomplished, ANT is accused of produc- 
ing a deterministic approach to networks. Vicky 
Singleton argues similarly that the relative stability 
of networks depends not on their coherence, but 
on their incoherence and ambivalence, issues 
that have been generally neglected in early ANT 
accounts. Susan Star and James Griesemer argue, 
further, that as translation is frequently told from 
the point of view of one passage point, and this 
point is usually the manager, the entrepreneur, or 
the scientist, this model can lead to a managerial 
bias, which seems to put ANT in opposition to 
perspectives that are nonmanagerial and nonper- 
formative (as critical management studies (CMS) 
claims to be). 

However, it is not only the translation notion 
that can lead to simplistic views of ordering. In 
some ANT case accounts, ordering may appear as 
a basic matter of having an effective chain that is 
able to transport immutable mobiles and action at 
a distance without detailing the difficulties and 
problems associated with the dynamics of exerting 
control. Immutable mobiles, once created, seem to 
remain the same — because centers and peripheries 
tend to be portrayed as established locations. This 
again, however, neglects the potential for resistance 
and change in relations of power and politics. 

Another notion that is seen as leading to a sim- 
plistic view of accounting for ordering is the net- 
work. Although Law and Singleton suggest it was 
initially successful in challenging Euclidian spatial- 
ity as the network notion has been deployed in a 
very rigid way, others suggest it later failed to 
account for all work involved in keeping networks 
in place. Latour, similarly, argues that the network 
notion has lost its critical meaning of 20 years ago, 
when, for ANT, networks were meant to refer to a 
series of transformations, dependent on the con- 
nections and actions that flowed from one actor to 
another. The idea was to stress movement and 
change, which, in the main, does not appear to 
have happened. 

The implication is that key ANT notions lead to 
a singular representation of ordering at the same 
time that complexities and differences are disre- 
garded. As such, it is argued by Andrea Whittle 
and Andre Spicer that this is problematic for the 

development of critical perspectives that seek to 
explore all the complexities associated with rela- 
tions that establish order, especially those related 
to power. As Daniel Neyland highlights, some of 
the ANT applications have forged the kind of fixed 
location and known theoretical moves that ANT 
previously sought to avoid. In effect, not only does 
ANT proffer several problematic notions, but its 
applications also tend to be acritical. For Jan 
Harris, Latour's theory has often been reduced to 
ready acronyms and has been followed by unprob- 
lematic application of terms to a given field of 
study. Consequently, ANT has been accused of 
providing an analysis of organization(s) that natu- 
ralizes organizations themselves. 

This simplistic view of organizing also has con- 
sequences in terms of how otherness has been 
addressed in ANT works. Nick Lee and Steve 
Brown suggest that ANT became a meta-linguistic 
formulation into which any sequence of humans 
and nonhumans could be encoded. As such, it 
became, for Lee and Brown, a final vocabulary 
that covered everything and risked producing ahis- 
torical grand narratives and the concomitant right 
to speak for all. As a totalizing system, ANT leaves 
no space for otherness or noncategories, according 
to Steve Hinchliffe. It also fails to account for dif- 
ference, leading to a problematic view of politics, 
with clear consequences in terms of whether ANT 
can provide a critical analysis of management and 

Finally, ANT has been charged with avoiding 
a political stance altogether. Olga Amsterdamska, 
for example, suggests that ANT analyzes the 
strengths of alliances that make networks, but 
rarely the character of them. This sees ANT con- 
cerned with questions of how networks are estab- 
lished in terms of relations, but not with whether 
these relations are characterized by ethical or 
unethical means. Donna Haraway argues similarly 
that as ANT rarely asks for whom the hybrids 
it analyzes work, it neglects the role played by 
inequality in the production of sociological 
accounts. As such, ANT's seemingly balanced and 
symmetrical sociotechnical explanations tend to 
overlook, or even avoid, questions of politics. 
Further, Robert Ausch suggests that ANT fails to 
address how political categories, such as gender, 
race, class, and colonialism, are established; that 
is, categories that are not static and a priori, but 

12 Agency 

that operate as historical modes of conditions that 
impact and affect relations. According to Susan 
Star, even though ANT describes heterogeneous 
engineering, it fails to acknowledge that heteroge- 
neity tends to be different for those who are privi- 
leged and those who are not. She points out that 
accounts in this tradition have a propensity to 
ignore the problem of hierarchies of distribution. 
For Michel Reed, similarly, ANT ignores how 
opportunities are unequally distributed in society. 
And Whittle and Spicer argue that ANT tends to 
assume rather than problematize what motivates 
action and which purposes it serves; it also appears 
to reproduce, instead of challenge, the networks it 
describes. In so doing, ANT has been accused of 
being politically neutral, with critics suggesting it 
is not an appropriate approach to develop a criti- 
cal case analysis of organizations. 


An interesting application of ANT has been writ- 
ten by Anamarie Mol. In her book The Body 
Multiple, which draws on field work in a Dutch 
university hospital, Mol analyzes the day-to-day 
practices of diagnosis and treatment of atheroscle- 
rosis, arguing that within such practices the disease 
is enacted into existence. It is a well-written appli- 
cation of ANT's latest developments. 

Critical Summary 

ANT is a sociophilosophical approach in which 
human and material factors are brought together 
in the same analytical view. It tries to understand 
how entities are enacted into being in a multifari- 
ous and complex way. 

John Hassard and Rafael Alcadipani 

See also Agency; Case Study and Theoretical Science; 
Ethnomethodology; Field Work; Postmodernism; 
Poststructuralism; Relational Analysis 

Further Readings 

Callon, M. (1986). Some elements of a sociology of 
translation: Domestication of the scallops and the 
fishermen of St.-Brieuc Bay. In J. Law (Ed.), Power, 
action and belief: A new sociology of knowledge? 
(pp. 196-223). London: Routledge. 

Cooper, R., & Law, J. (1995). Organization: Distal and 

proximal views. In S. B. Bacharach, P. Gagliardi, & 

B. Mundell (Eds.), Research in the sociology of 

organization. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press. 
Czarniawska, B., & Hemes, T. (2005). Actor-network 

theory and organising. Malmo, Sweden: Liber and 

Copenhagen Business School Press. 
Latour, B. (1987). Science in action: How to follow 

scientists and engineers through society. Milton 

Keynes, UK: Open University Press. 
Latour, B. (1999). Pandora's hope: Essays on the reality 

of science studies. Cambridge, MA, & London: 

Harvard University Press. 
Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: An 

introduction to actor-network-theory. Oxford, UK: 

Oxford University Press. 
Law, J. (1994). Organising modernity. Oxford, UK, & 

Cambridge, MA: Blackwell. 
Law, J., & Mol, A. (2002). Complexities: Social studies 

of knowledge practices. Durham, NC: Duke 

University Press. 
Mol, A. (2002). The body multiple: Ontology in medical 

practice. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 


Agency is the condition of activity rather than 
passivity. It refers to the experience of acting, 
doing things, making things happen, exerting 
power, being a subject of events, or controlling 
things. This is one aspect of human experience. 
The other aspect of human experience is to be 
acted upon, to be the object of events, to have 
things happen to oneself or in oneself, to be con- 
strained and controlled: to lack agency. As people 
are both actors and acted upon, the interplay 
between agency and context is a central issue in 
case study research across all the disciplines. This 
entry provides an overview of the concept and its 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

There are three main types of agency: (1) Individual 
agency: The most fundamental form of agency 
consists of individuals acting, whether at the micro 
scale (in private or in locales of co-presence) or at 
the macro scale (in extensive public activities). 
(2) Proxy agency: One agent acting on behalf of 

Agency 13 

another is known as a proxy. Common examples 
of proxy agents are employees acting on behalf of 
employers, managers acting on behalf of the own- 
ers of a firm, or officials acting on behalf of a 
government. A situation in which a principal hires 
a proxy agent gives rise to what is called the prin- 
cipal-agent problem — a major subject for legal, 
political, and economic theory. Although nomi- 
nally acting for the principal, proxy agents can act 
on their own behalf owing to the divergence of 
interests and the asymmetry of information between 
principal and agent. (3) Collective agency: When 
individuals collaborate they create collective enti- 
ties; insofar as such entities engage in effectual 
activity, they become collective agencies. Among 
the numerous examples of collective agencies are 
firms, states, classes, and social movements. The 
looser a collectivity, the harder it is to attribute 
agency to it: A degree of coherence is needed in 
order to form intentions, make decisions, and act. 
There are three main bases of human agency — 
that is, three key properties of human beings that 
give rise to agency: (1) Intentionality: Human 
beings are purposive or intentional. This is one 
source of their agency. Action comes in two variet- 
ies: On the one hand, action can be aimless, acci- 
dental, or unconscious; on the other hand, action 
can be purposive and goal oriented. In the latter, 
people seek out the good things they want in life. 
Only the latter sort of action involves agency. Lack 
of agency or the absence of agency is to be found 
when a person acts unintentionally. Accidental or 
unconscious conduct involves things that happen 
to us, rather than things that are done by us. Yet, 
intentionality is not sufficient to give rise to agency. 
Goals are not deeds. (2) Power: Human beings 
wield resources and capabilities. This is a second 
source of their agency. Since power is typically dis- 
tributed in an uneven fashion, it follows that so too 
is agency. Some have greater agency than others. 
(3) Rationality: Human beings are rational. They use 
their intelligence to guide their actions. They calcu- 
late how to achieve their ends, and they think about 
what ends to pursue. This ability to augment action 
through reasoning accounts in part for the active 
rather than passive quality of human behavior. To 
act with effect, it is necessary for agents to reflect 
upon their circumstances and to monitor the ongo- 
ing consequences of their actions. Although not all 
people at all times have been highly purposive, 

powerful, or rational, enough have to impart 
agency into history and social life. 

Early Thinking 

Different systems of thought in history have 
produced varying ideas of the nature and signifi- 
cance agency. 

Ancient Greek philosophy developed a distinc- 
tion between what were later known in Latin as the 
vita activa and the vita contemplativa. The former 
was the active way of life of the citizen with his 
twin duties of engaging in politics and fighting in 
war. The latter was the contemplative lifestyle of 
the philosopher. Each implied a form of agency. But 
both forms were understood to be socially restricted: 
Active citizenship was limited to adult male full 
members of the city; the philosophical life was even 
more limited to those who constituted the wise. 
Agency belonged to the few, not the many. 

Medieval Christian thought turned away from 
human agency. Divine agency displaced human 
agency. The church condemned as heresy the view 
(known as Pelagianism) that people can achieve 
salvation through their own agency. Church doc- 
trine insisted that salvation can come only through 
divine agency, with God's gift of grace. Boethius's 
Consolation of Philosophy, a book written ca. 524 
and widely read for centuries thereafter, argued 
that all events and decisions are part of God's plan 
and derive from God's will. Boethius invoked the 
image of the wheel of fortune to argue that even 
apparent coincidences, chance, or luck are prod- 
ucts of divine agency. 

Renaissance humanism reintroduced a sense of 
human agency. The name humanism arose because 
of a greater emphasis placed on humanity rather 
than divinity, on human activities, and on practical 
rather than theological knowledge. Instead of 
being the subject of God's will, or powerless 
against the unpredictable forces of fortune, human 
beings can shape their circumstances and alter 
events. In short, in the humanist worldview, 
humans are agents. 

Niccolo Machiavelli developed a notable con- 
ception of political agency. Wondering whether 
there was any scope for human agency in politics, 
Machiavelli argued in Chapter XXV of The Prince 
that fortune controls half the things we do, while 
we control the other half. Machiavelli goes on to 



convey his idea of political agency with two meta- 
phors. First, he compares fortune to a violent river 
that when in flood nothing can withstand. But even 
such an irresistible and destructive power can be 
mitigated by taking precautions such as building 
embankments. In this metaphor, the scope of agency 
is owing to the human quality of prudence or the 
rationality of practical foresight. Second, Machiavelli 
likens fortune to a woman, alluding to the Roman 
goddess Fortuna. But even the unpredictable and 
changeable winds of fortune can be mitigated by 
those who are adventurous, manly, strong, and 
audacious. In the first metaphor, the precondition 
of agency was cautious rational prudence; in the 
second it is self-confident power. In sum, Machiavelli 
offers a recognizably modern theory of agency: He 
estimates its scope (about half of what we do is 
agency, half is passivity) and he attempts to identify 
its bases (rationality and power). 

Marxist Perspectives 

Marxism brought a distinctive theory of agency. 
Marxist thought was preoccupied not with everyday 
private agency at the micro scale, nor with the rou- 
tine agency of politics, business, or war at the macro 
scale, but with agency as the collective pursuit of a 
social revolution. Agency in this context means 
transforming the world. It became known in Marxism 
as "making history. " Conceived in this way, agency 
is something that requires immense power, vast 
knowledge, and hugely ambitious goals. 

The agents that make history are classes. Marx 
was hugely impressed with the immense achieve- 
ments of the bourgeois class. The first part of the 
Communist Manifesto hails the vast changes 
wrought by the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie was a 
potent agent, but its achievements were to be as 
nothing compared to those of the proletariat. That 
is because the task of the working class was no less 
than to liberate humanity, and to abolish scarcity, 
exploitation, inequality, and oppression for good. 
What makes the working class a suitable agent for 
such a task? It is not primarily that the workers are 
exploited, since they are not the first subaltern class 
in history to be oppressed. It is first and foremost the 
potential power of the proletariat to control produc- 
tion that gives them world-transforming agency. For 
Marx, power over production is the basis of all 
power. But this agency also requires intentionality: 

Marx was confident that the proletariat would 
come to hold the goal of overthrowing capitalism 
and building communism. Its further basis was 
rationality: Advancing knowledge, supplied by the 
science of critical political economy, would reveal 
the laws of motion of history, the nature of capital- 
ism, and the preconditions of communism. 

Even among Marxists, confidence in the power, 
purpose, and rationality of the working class even- 
tually began to evaporate. A search began among 
Marxists for some alternative world-transforming 
agency. Several alternatives arose: (a) The revolu- 
tionary party: Leninists developed the idea of the 
vanguard party: Critics such as Trotsky charged 
the Leninists with substituting the agency of the 
party for the agency of the class, (b) The peasantry: 
Maoists hailed the guerrilla army and the peas- 
antry as revolutionary agents, (c) Colonial nations: 
In the mid-20th century, Third Worldists posited 
the national liberation movements of the so-called 
oppressed nations as agents of world revolution. 
(d) New social movements: By the end of the cen- 
tury, Marxists began to debate whether social 
movements of the Left, such as the feminist or 
green movements, had taken over the role of the 
working class as world-transforming agency. 
Though each held fleeting attention, and though 
each was an agency in the limited sense, none 
proved to be a world-transforming agent. None of 
these would-be agents turned out in practice to 
have the world-transforming power or aims that 
the theory demanded. 

Within Marxism there arose a tension between 
structure and agency. Marx put it that men make 
history, but not in any way they please. They make 
history only under circumstances derived from 
the past. In due course, Marxism developed two 
strands: a deterministic one that gave priority to 
structure and a more voluntaristic one that gave 
primacy to agency. The deterministic or structural 
strand emphasized the playing out of the inevitable 
laws of motion of history that would fell capital- 
ism and drive humanity forward. 

Likewise, within social theory more broadly 
there also arose a tension between structure and 
agency. One strand denied or downplayed agency. 
The other took agency as its starting point. The 
former was preoccupied with the problem of how 
social order arises. The latter concerned itself with 
how individual actions generate social phenomena. 

Agency 15 


Some contemporary applications have been highly 
critical of the notion that human beings are agents. 
A notable challenge to agency derives from post- 
modernist thought. Its critical attitude toward 
agency was partly inherited from French structur- 
alist thought. Following the structuralist theory of 
language, postmodernism dissolved agency and 
gave priority to structures of discourse. Language 
or discourse was seen as an encompassing struc- 
ture that produced its own speakers and authors. 
But postmodernist thought went farther than this. 
It challenged the bases of agency. One basis of 
agency is intentionality. Against intentionality, 
postmodernism tended to stress the fragmentation 
of any stable identity or sense of self that might 
formulate consistent intentions. Human beings are 
conceived not as coherent and purposive but as 
unstable and shifting. 

Another basis of agency is power. A major theme 
of postmodernism was that power is not a resource 
of agents. Instead, it is a general, if covert, feature of 
discourse or knowledge that flows throughout soci- 
ety as capillaries flow blood through a body. Michel 
Foucault wrote of power as if it possesses agency, 
instead of agents possessing power. Power produces 
things — indeed it is the active producer of subjects. 
Agents are products of power. Power causes things 
to happen. Power acts. 

A third basis of agency is rationality: Post- 
modernism was highly critical of rationality. One 
line of criticism was that rationality had no secure 
foundations. Another was that rationality is oppres- 
sive, being a constraint on creativity and imagina- 
tion. Postmodernism mounted a many-pronged 
attack on the notion of agency. 

But other contemporary applications have sought 
to defend the notion of agency. Social studies influ- 
enced by Anthony Giddens's thought stress the 
centrality of agency. For Giddens, social theory was 
at an impasse, trapped between the two poles of 
agency and structure. His theory of structuration 
aimed to transcend the impasse. Giddens's theory of 
structure stressed two key points. The first was that 
structures are not totalities; structure is not another 
word for "society" or "mode of production" or 
"world system." Instead, structures are specific sets 
of rules and resources. Societies or world systems 
consist of many overlapping sets of structures. 

The second key point in Giddens's theory of 
structure was that structures are not just constrain- 
ing but also enabling. They limit but also assist 
action. Thus, structure is not the means by which 
society limits the scope of what individuals can do. 
It is how multiple sets of rules and resources at 
times limit and at times aid agency. Giddens's the- 
ory of agency held that the main property of agents 
is power. Agency, in Giddens's view, means power. 
Intentionality is not a property of agency, he 
argues, because actions often have unintended 
consequences. This remains the most controversial 
part of Giddens's theory. 

In theorizing the interplay of structure and 
agency, Giddens is keen to point out that neither is 
in principle more important than the other. As for 
their relationship, Giddens denies that structure 
and agency are two separate and opposed things; 
instead, both are aspects of a single process of 
structuration in which both structures and agents 
are involved in the ongoing production of further 
structures and agents. 

A key issue in recent applications concerns 
what sorts of agents are currently influential in 
the world order. It is sometimes thought that in 
a context of globalization, states are becoming 
less important agencies compared to nongovern- 
mental organizations (NGOs). Daniel Drezner 
has analyzed this issue in a set of case studies 
of international regulatory regimes governing 
the Internet, intellectual property, finance, and 
other domains. He concludes that the great 
powers (especially the United States and the 
European Union) remain the key agents in 
global governance. 

Critical Summary 

The interplay between agency and circumstance 
has long been one of the central issues of social 
science. All of the human sciences have at root a 
similar subject matter: human agency as it occurs 
in structured domains and across temporal 
spans. Hence all case study research has a simi- 
lar basic logic of situating agents and actions 
within its structuring contexts. This is likely to 
remain the case owing to the basic duality of the 
human condition: Human beings at once make 
their social contexts and are made by them; 
we are actors but also acted upon; people are 



subjects and objects; in part we possess agency 
and in part we lack it. 

Martin Hewson 

See also Author Intentionality; Postmodernism; 
Poststructuralism; Power; Praxis; Structuration 

Further Readings 

Archer, M. A. (2000). Being human: The problem of 

agency. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University 

Boethius. (1962). Consolation of philosophy (R. Green, 

Trans). Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill. (Original work 

published c. 524) 
Drezner, D. (2007). All politics is global: Explaining 

international regulatory regimes. Princeton, NJ: 

Princeton University Press. 
Emirbayer, M., & Mische, A. (1998). What is agency? 

American Journal of Sociology, 103(4), 962-1023. 
Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and punish: The birth 

of the prison. New York: Pantheon. 
Giddens, A. (1984). The constitution of society: Outline of 

the theory of structuration. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. 
Machiavelli, N. (1977). The prince (R. M. Adams, 

Trans). New York: W. W. Norton. (Original work 

published 1532) 
Marx, K. (1937). The eighteenth Brumaire of Louis 

Bonaparte. Moscow: Progress Publishers. (Original 

work published 1852) 


The concept of alienation at work refers to a pro- 
cess and to the negative results that are produced 
in a worker who performs a routine, repetitive, 
and mechanized work that is little stimulating, 
and that presents the worker with limited possi- 
bilities of growth and development. An investiga- 
tion carried out on alienation must acknowledge 
that it is a concept not easily defined, has simi- 
larities to other constructs, and is a complex 
phenomenon that requires the consideration of 
different methodological and conceptual aspects. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Many have studied the notion of alienation at work. 
According to Karl Marx, work becomes alienating 

when a worker is engaged in a series of tasks over 
which he or she has no control, and the worker is 
imbedded in a system of domination, constraint, 
and under the orders and authority of another per- 
son. Erik Erikson associated alienation with a lack 
of identity in the worker as a consequence of the 
conflicts between the individual and the social struc- 
ture. Robert Merton refers to the notion of occupa- 
tional psychosis as a consequence of the hierarchical 
inflexibility of organizations, producing an incapac- 
ity or incompetence in the worker. In the bureau- 
cratic organization of Max Weber, the bureaucracy 
produces a climate of alienating work in which the 
worker should comply with the routines, strict obe- 
dience to the hierarchy, and compliance with the 
norm. Frederick Taylor utilized economic incentives 
to achieve the maximum productivity of work. The 
consequence of this was a type of work that was 
repetitive and in which the needs and motivations of 
the worker were considered irrelevant. This has 
been considered alienating. 

The study of alienation at work has been under- 
taken more extensively to understand modern and 
industrialized societies through a focus on the 
labor, economic, political, religious, and social sys- 
tems. The different notions of alienation discussed 
in the literature have focused more prominently on 
the condition of the laborer. 

Studies of alienation at work have been carried 
out in many organizations, including industries, 
government, the health sector, and the education 
sector; in different occupations and professions 
such as health workers, teachers, employees, and 
professionals and nonprofessionals such as man- 
ual and nonmanual employees; through different 
perspectives, including sociological, economic, 
psychological, and in the social sciences. The 
notion of alienation has been associated with other 
constructs; for instance, job dissatisfaction, pres- 
sure, exploitation, syndrome of burnout, and 
mechanization. Alienation at work has its origin, 
chiefly, in the organization and produces direct 
and negatives effects in the worker. 

Based on the social-psychological literature, 
Melvin Seeman proposes six meanings of the 
notion of alienation: powerlessness (feeling of 
impotence and incapacity to influence in the work 
system), meaninglessness (feeling of absurdity, lack 
of sense, and absence of meaning), normlessness 
(feeling of anomie, and absence of norms), cultural 



estrangement (rejecting the values shared by the 
society), self-estrangement (auto-alienation and 
lack of interest in the work), and social isolation 
(feeling of isolation). Seeman stresses that some 
meanings of alienation are not clear (e.g., self- 
estrangement), and he notes that there are difficul- 
ties in clearly defining and assessing such meanings. 
Walter R. Heinz identifies weaknesses in the 
analysis of Melvin Seeman's work and makes sug- 
gestions for future investigations of the notion of 
alienation. These include developing definitions 
and measurements of subjective dimensions of 
alienation; the need for case studies or the use of 
other research methods that will allow for the 
development of a deeper understanding of the 
process(es) by which workers experience alien- 
ation; addressing the lack of research with a simul- 
taneous analysis of social and work contexts; 
addressing the lack of conceptual approaches of 
the dimensions of alienation; and addressing the 
lack of multidimensional approaches to measure 
and to analyze alienation. Despite the diverse 
existing criticisms, the contributions of Seeman 
have provided the foundation for the construction 
of multiple scales of measurement as well as the 
conceptual focus for the study of the alienation. 


In this section, two cases are presented in which 
the authors performed investigation of work alien- 
ation using different methodologies. Both cases 
contribute interesting results and offer two inter- 
esting methodological perspectives for the study of 
the work alienation. 

Margaret Vickers and Melissa Parris designed an 
exploratory and qualitative study using Heideggerian 
phenomenology to capture the lived experiences of 
10 respondents through interviews. The respondents 
expressed experiencing alienation in different forms. 
The results of this study indicate that the respon- 
dents who were laid off or made redundant had an 
alienating experience, with feelings of powerless- 
ness, shock, betrayal, humiliation, embarrassment, 
shame, and social isolation. According to the 
respondents interviewed, the outcomes of these 
experiences were trepidation and fear, less enjoy- 
ment, less confidence, less competence in their work, 
erosion of trust in organization and other people, 
and a negative impact on careers and families. 

In another case, Melvin Seeman studied the 
consequences of alienation in a random sample 
of male employees in a Swedish community 
(N = 558). The consequences included in this study 
were: intergroup hostility, anomie, political with- 
drawal, status seeking, and powerlessness. In this 
study, Seeman designed an index of work alien- 
ation using interviews with questions to discrimi- 
nate among several work situations. The index of 
work alienation included seven items. Seeman also 
designed measures of outcomes of work alienation: 
generalized powerlessness, intergroup hostility, 
political awareness, status-mindedness, normless- 
ness, expert orientation. In the validity processes, 
the author performed a factor analysis, and each 
variable was deemed reliable by the author. 

In the first case, Vickers and Parris use the phe- 
nomenological approach because it is one of many 
types of qualitative research that explores the lived 
experiences of individuals. With this approach, the 
researcher systematically collects and analyzes the 
narrative experiences of employees. The authors 
analyzed the experience of work alienation as a 
consequence of having been laid off or made redun- 
dant. This study drew on a small sample size to 
foster an in-depth understanding of the experiences, 
feelings, and events lived by the respondents. 

In his study, Seeman used a deductive method. 
He designed the instruments to assess work alien- 
ation (index of work alienation) and for other 
variables (consequences of the alienation at work). 
Seeman validated and ensured the reliability of the 
scales utilized. Because of the methodological 
approach used in this study, it was possible to con- 
sider a sample of greater size. 

The discussion of these two case studies illus- 
trates the use and availability of different method- 
ological approaches to study alienation at work. 
The qualitative and quantitative methodologies 
offer valuable elements for the study of a phenom- 
enon as complex as alienation. 

Critical Summary 

Alienation is a theme that has been studied since 
the industrialization of societies. Alienation is a 
social and labor problem that exists in many coun- 
tries, which presents an extensive opportunity to 
carry out research projects. Recently, many 
researchers have developed scales for the measure- 


Analysis of Visual Data 

ment and comprehension of alienation in different 
types of organizations. In scientific research, the 
study of alienation represents a great challenge for 
researchers because of its complexity. This is seen 
in the various ways that alienation has manifested 
in various organizations and industries. Explanations 
of the concept of alienation require the use of 
quantitative and qualitative analysis to explain it in 
holistic and integral form. 

Juana Patlan-Perez 

See also Case Study Research in Psychology; Critical 
Theory; Exploratory Case Study; Interviews; 
Organizational Culture; Qualitative Analysis in Case 
Study; Quantitative Analysis in Case Study 

Further Readings 

Heinz, W. R. (1991). Changes in the methodology of 

alienation research. International Journal of Sociology 

and Social Policy, 11(6-8), 213-221. 
Seeman, M. (1959). On the meaning of alienation. 

American Sociological Review, 24(6), 783-791. 
Seeman, M. (1967). On the personal consequences of 

alienation in work. American Sociological Review, 

32(2), 273-285. 
Seeman, M. (1983). Alienation motifs in contemporary 

theorizing: The hidden continuity of the classic 

themes. Social Psychology Quarterly, 46(3), 171-184. 
Vickers, M. H., & Parris, M. A. (2007). "Your job no 

longer exists!": From experiences of alienation to 

expectations of resilience — A phenomenological study. 

Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, 19, 


Analysis of Visual Data 

Visual data in case study research refers to any 
image that represents human experience, whether 
that experience is of the person(s) in the image, 
the experience of the image maker, or the experi- 
ence of the viewer of the image. The photograph 
has been the dominant form of visual data, but 
other visual genres social scientists are using in 
case studies include videos, paintings, and col- 
lages. Given its predominance, this entry focuses 
largely on photography as an entry point into 
using and interpreting visual data. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

The development of mechanical reproduction of 
reality through the photograph lent itself to a sci- 
entific-realist view of the world, well captured in 
the expression, "the camera does not lie." The 
scientific-realist view considered the photo as an 
exact representation of reality and as evidence 
rather than as an interpretation. Captions were 
often added to photos to direct viewers' attention 
to what was "meant" by the contents of the photo. 
This view of the photograph, still used in docu- 
mentary work, is diminishing in scholarly research. 
Photographers themselves recognized the differ- 
ences produced through different camera settings 
as well as through the manipulation of the printing 
process, which is even more extreme given the cur- 
rent visual technologies available. Captions repre- 
sent but one way of understanding a photo. 
Experience in the field highlights the role of theory 
and of restrictions governing the production of 
a photo, which ultimately shapes what is repre- 
sented. The photograph, then, is not simply a 
"window" on reality, but rather an interpretation, 
one particular viewpoint among many. 

Sources of visual data include archives and the 
production of images in the research setting itself. 
Archival images, which were produced for other 
purposes, can be interrogated as to their intended 
meaning in their time, how they were made, the 
content of the image including what is missing, 
their link to accompanying text as well as other 
texts, and how audiences over time have interpreted 
them. Occasionally, it may be possible to interview 
persons depicted in archival images, essentially cre- 
ating an opportunity for photo elicitation, described 
below. Such scrutiny of archival visual data can 
produce important narratives that are counter to 
those espoused in the archival record. 

Images produced in the research setting can be a 
powerful method for gaining new understanding 
since they are particularly suited to "seeing" people 
and social phenomena in a new light. Deeply held 
assumptions cause us to see things in a certain way; 
visual data are able to facilitate seeing differently. 
Photo elicitation and photo voice are two ways 
researchers can use photography to overcome their 
own assumptions in the research setting. 

Photo elicitation is a variation of open-ended 
interviewing where photographs are used to elicit 

Analysis of Visual Data 


the cultural insider's understanding of what is in 
the photo. The researcher, in taking photographs, 
comes to realize his or her lack of knowledge of 
what is conta ined culturally in the photo . Overcoming 
this requires, first, being self-aware: How am I 
approaching this situation and why am I photo- 
graphing this particular content in this particular 
way? At the same time, it requires being an informed 
participant observer, where the researcher immerses 
him- or herself in the cultural world under investi- 
gation. Finally, having taken the photo, the photog- 
rapher must now elicit from the cultural insider an 
understanding of what is in the photo and what was 
omitted. Roles are reversed as the researcher becomes 
the listener/student and the subject becomes the 
instructor. That which is taken for granted in the 
subject's world is explicated for the researcher, who 
often is unaware of what is "in" the photo. In this 
way, the voices of insiders are heard and the photo 
becomes an explication of their world rather than 
the author's limited understanding of that world. 
The subjectivity of those who inhabit the cultural 
world under investigation becomes more explicit. 

Photo voice is a variation on photo elicitation. 
Rather than the researcher being the photographer, 
the cultural insider is given the means of produc- 
tion, thereby amplifying the voice of the insider. 
The insiders are given the power and the means of 
telling their story in a manner chosen by them, and 
the researcher becomes a collaborator in telling 
their stories. With the use of video technology, 
photo voice communicates even more. It becomes 
a way of conveying the felt experience of living in 
a particular cultural world in a way that goes well 
beyond what could be expressed through only 
words and still photographs. 

The use of visual data in research is determined 
by several things. Central considerations include 
the research question(s) and theory used by the 
researcher, aptitude with visual methods, ethical 
considerations, and in archival-based research, the 
availability of images. Several of these issues are 
addressed in the discussion below. 


Douglas Harper's ethnographic case study of a 
rural mechanic in Working Knowledge is a master- 
ful example of the use of visual data produced 
in the research setting. Harper focuses on one 

individual — Willie, and, in particular, his skill as a 
mechanic. Harper's study developed out of his per- 
sonal, theoretical, and methodological interests. 
He came into contact with Willie, later his friend 
and key informant, through a mutual interest in 
Saab automobiles. The nature of the skill Willie 
displayed as he went about repairing Saabs as well 
as various other things was theoretically intriguing 
to Harper, especially as he saw that kind of skill 
disappearing with the increased rationalization 
and automation of repair work in Western society. 
Harper has a strong methodological interest and 
ability in photography and visual methods. 
Moreover, Harper has an abiding concern about 
the disappearing rural world in the face of contin- 
ued modernization. Thus, photography became 
integral to the research project. 

As he began the research, Harper took photos of 
Willie's work but quickly realized his photos did 
not reflect the depth of knowledge and skill evident 
in Willie's work. Harper took more photos, becom- 
ing much more sensitive to Willie's work — the 
hands, the materials and tools, the fine details, the 
setting, and the progress of the work. Then Harper 
interviewed Willie, making the photos the focal 
point of the discussion. He gathered 30 hours of 
tape-recorded interview material that he transcribed 
into some 300 pages of text. Through sensitivity 
and photo elicitation, Harper achieved an impor- 
tant transition in what his photos communicated. 

The use of photography did not end with the 
photo elicitation. Past practice used photos as 
dressing to illustrate or supplement text, which was 
considered the "real" work. However, an ethno- 
graphic case study using photos would be impover- 
ished if it did the same. Thus Harper sought to have 
the text and the photos explain the skills and com- 
munity around the shop. Working Knowledge dis- 
plays congruence between text and photo, and a 
dependence of one on the other to produce a coher- 
ent presentation. Displaying a series of photos jux- 
taposed with the verbatim transcription of Willie 
and the author talking about the photos provides 
the interactive element necessary for the photos to 
do the work of explanation. Readers are invited 
to participate in the interview and to grow in their 
understanding of Willie's world from Willie's per- 
spective in Willie's own voice as they listen in on 
the conversation concerning the cultural meaning 
depicted in a photo. 


Analytic Generalization 

It is important to note some ethical issues 
Harper encountered in utilizing photography. First, 
cameras are intrusive. To gather the photos neces- 
sary for his purposes, Harper needed to be quite 
aggressive; the detail in his photos bears this out. 
Photography is much more visible and invasive 
than standing off to the side taking notes. Permission 
must be granted, and not taken for granted, as the 
research progresses. Moreover, some topics may 
become too intrusive and personal for photogra- 
phy. Harper includes only a few photos of the con- 
nection of Willie and his shop to the wider 
community. The paucity of photos in this aspect of 
the research may underscore increased sensitivity 
and reticence in this area. Choices concerning 
when to use photography are dictated by the 
appropriateness of the research setting and rela- 
tional context. 

Second, photos are revealing. Anonymity of 
respondents is at stake. Though Harper uses a 
pseudonym, Willie's face is recognizable, and since 
Willie's reputation is critical to his everyday life, to 
show his face presents a significant risk. Also at 
stake is the misrepresentation of the photos, espe- 
cially when removed from their context. Harper's 
attention to the inclusion of Willie's voice situates 
the photo and its production in its context, and the 
reader is moved from a foreign "other context" 
interpretation of the photos to an understanding 
from Willie's perspective. In Harper's text the 
reader is moved from seeing "junk" to seeing value 
and worth, community, and even beauty. 

Several examples of archival visual analysis 
are also available. In her book, Catherine Kohler 
Riessman highlights two examples, one of which is 
the work of Elena Tajima Creef, who interrogates 
the visual depiction of the internment of Japanese 
Americans during World War II. Her work clearly 
shows the interplay of archival photos, texts, gov- 
ernment documents, drawings, and the iterative 
nature of analysis — moving back and forth between 
photos and other data. Interestingly, Creef also 
draws on a corpus of photos from three different 
photographers who produced a record of Japanese 
internment from three different perspectives and 
agendas. Evident in Creef's analysis is the care 
taken to understand the photographers' "theory" 
in creating their photos, as well as the importance 
of attending to the contexts in which the photos 
were produced. 

Critical Summary 

Visual data are increasingly being employed in case 
studies as the products of photography, especially, 
but also other visual genres, are conceptualized in 
ways that challenge the realism of traditional docu- 
mentaries. Photo elicitation undermines the author- 
ity of the "expert" researcher in favor of the cultural 
insider. Photo voice undermines the power relations 
implicit in production of photos seen, for example, 
in the colonial era. The power of image-making is 
now given to the subjects of the research, who typi- 
cally have not had the power or voice to represent 
themselves. The critical scrutiny of archival visual 
data challenges "official" stories, thereby surfacing 
counter-narratives. Overall, the postmodern turn in 
the social sciences has brought new life and vigor to 
the use of visual data, creating richer analysis and 
deeper insight as we begin to see in new ways. 

Elden Wiebe 

See also Archival Records as Evidence; Narrative Analysis; 
Participant Observation; Postmodernism; Researcher- 
Participant Relationship; Visual Research Methods 

Further Readings 

Harper, D. (1987). Working knowledge: Skill and 
community in a small shop. Chicago: University of 
Chicago Press. 

Harper, D. (1988). Who is this man? Society, 26(1), 77-84. 

Harper, D. (1994). On the authority of the image: Visual 
methods at the crossroads. In N. K. Denzin & 
Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research 
(pp. 403-412). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Harper, D. (2000). Reimagining visual methods: Galileo 
to Neurotnancer. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln 
(Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (2nd ed., 
pp. 717-732). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Pink, S. (2001). Doing visual ethnography: Images, media 
and representation in research. London: Sage. 

Riessman, C. K. (2008). Visual analysis, hi Narrative methods 
for the human sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Analytic Generalization 

With both the case study and the laboratory exper- 
iment, the objective for generalizing the findings is 
the same: The findings or results from the single 

Analytic Generalization 


study are to follow a process of analytic general- 
ization. Analytic generalization may be defined as 
a two-step process. The first involves a conceptual 
claim whereby investigators show how their case 
study findings bear upon a particular theory, theo- 
retical construct, or theoretical (not just actual) 
sequence of events. The second involves applying 
the same theory to implicate other, similar situa- 
tions where analogous events also might occur. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

All research takes place in the form of single stud- 
ies. The significance of any given study depends 
not only on the study's findings but also on the 
broader implications of the findings — the extent to 
which the findings can be "generalized" to other 
studies and other situations. The more that research 
of any kind is generalizable in this fashion, the 
more the research may be valued. 

Generalizing the results from a single case study 
poses a unique problem. Case studies are typically 
about a specific case. Even if a case study is about 
multiple cases, each case is likely to consist of a spe- 
cific set of persons or a specific set of events in a 
specific place and at a specific period of time. 
Indeed, each case's specificity is likely to make it a 
unique situation. Given these circumstances, how to 
generalize a case study's findings to other situations, 
thereby enhancing the importance of the findings, 
would at first appear to be problematic. Note, how- 
ever, that the same challenge pertains to laboratory 
experiments, not just case studies. How to general- 
ize the results from a single experiment, taking place 
with a specific group of experimental subjects in a 
given place and time (and subjected to specific 
experimental interventions and procedures), also 
might seem problematic. 


Using analytic generalization requires carefully 
constructed argument. The argument is not likely 
to achieve the status of a proof in geometry, but 
the argument must be presented soundly and be 
resistant to logical challenge. The relevant theory 
may be no more than a series of hypotheses or 
even a single hypothesis. 

The pertinent argument or theory should be 
stated at the outset of the case study, not unlike the 

posing of propositions or hypotheses at the outset 
of any research. The argument needs to be cast in 
relation to existing research literature, not the spe- 
cific conditions to be found in the case to be studied. 
In other words, the goal is to pose the propositions 
and hypotheses at a conceptual level higher than 
that of the specific case. Typically, this higher level 
is needed to justify the research importance for 
studying the chosen case in the first place. 

The findings from the case study should then 
show how the empirical results supported or chal- 
lenged the theory. If supported, the investigators 
then need to show how the theoretical advances 
can pertain (be generalized) to situations other than 
those examined as part of the single case study. 

The procedure does not differ from that used 
in reporting the findings from single laboratory 
experiments. However, the procedure does differ 
strongly from an alternative strategy — statistical 
generalization — which is not relevant to case stud- 
ies and should be avoided if possible. 

An example of analytic generalization is found 
in Graham Allison and Philip Zelikow's famous 
case study of the Cuban missile crisis. The investi- 
gators initially posed their case study as one that 
would investigate how superpowers confront each 
other. The case itself involved the United States 
and the former Soviet Union threatening each 
other over missiles located in Cuba in 1962. After 
presenting their case study, the authors then 
claimed that similar lessons could be applied to a 
wide variety of other international confrontations 
involving superpowers, including confrontations 
from other eras and involving superpowers other 
than the United States and the Soviet Union. 

Critical Summary 

As part of the case study, the stating and examin- 
ing of rival hypotheses will greatly strengthen the 
claimed analytic generalization. Meaningful or 
plausible rivals to the initial hypotheses should have 
been identified at the outset of the case study (but 
also may be encountered during the conduct of the 
case study). Thorough examination of the rivals 
entails sincere efforts to collect data, during the case 
study, in support of the rivals. If such data have 
been stringently sought but do not support the rival, 
the rival can be rejected. Case study findings that 
support the main hypotheses while simultaneously 


Anonymity and Confidentiality 

rejecting plausible rivals constitute strong grounds 
for claiming analytic generalizations. 

Beyond making a claim, the generalizability of the 
findings from a single case study increases immeasur- 
ably if similar results have been found with other 
case studies — whether such studies already existed in 
the literature or were completed after the first case 
study. The replication of results across multiple stud- 
ies, again whether occurring with case studies or 
with a series of laboratory experiments, is therefore 
a methodic and desired extension of the process of 
making analytic generalizations. 

Robert K. Yin 

See also Case Selection; Case Study and Theoretical 
Science; Causal Case Study: Explanatory Theories; 
Contribution, Theoretical; Critical Incident Case 
Study; Cross-Case Synthesis and Analysis; Extension 
of Theory; Falsification; Generalizability; Naturalistic 
Generalization; Theory-Building With Cases; Theory- 
Testing With Cases 

about a particular phenomenon. Data may be 
gathered using a case study to develop a theory, 
test an existing theory, or obtain a more in-depth 
understanding of themes emerging from quantita- 
tive studies using surveys. Data concerned with 
matters of public interest may also be gathered. 
The researcher must take every means possible to 
protect the identity of the research participants 
and preserve the confidentiality of information 
obtained during the study. The confidentiality 
requirement is no less stringent when the research 
site operates in the public domain (e.g., a publicly 
traded corporation) or when information about 
research participants and sites is available to the 
public through alternative sources. 

The need to maintain the anonymity of the 
research participants and site and the confidential- 
ity of information can create ethical and method- 
ological challenges for the researcher at various 
stages of the research process. These challenges are 
discussed in the following sections. 

Further Readings 

Allison, G. T., & Zelikow, P. (1999). Essence of a 
decision: Explaining the Cuban missile crisis. 
New York: Longman. 

Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: Design and 
methods (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Anonymity and 

The concepts of anonymity and confidentiality are 
closely linked in case study research. Anonymity is 
the protection of a research participant's or site's 
identity. Confidentiality is the safeguarding of 
information obtained in confidence during the 
course of the research study. It may be oral (i.e., 
obtained during an interview) or written (i.e., 
obtained during a review of an individual's or 
entity's records and other documents). 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Case study research is often used when a researcher 
is looking for in-depth, detailed empirical data 

Ethical Considerations 

Individual participants in a research study risk 
possible loss of anonymity, and this risk increases 
in studies using qualitative research methods such 
as interviews and observation. The loss of ano- 
nymity can lead to personal embarrassment and a 
possible loss of self-esteem and employment for 
the participant. Entities that are used as research 
sites can also suffer from a loss of anonymity, lead- 
ing to damage of public reputation or disclosure of 
trade secrets, for example. In her landmark study 
Men and Women of the Corporation, Rosabeth 
Moss Kanter identified her research site by a 
pseudonym — INDSO — in order to protect the 
identity of the organization and its employees. 

Protecting the research participants' identity 
does not, however, eliminate the need to protect 
information obtained during the research that may 
be of a confidential nature. Publication of confi- 
dential information can, inadvertently, lead back to 
the identity of specific individuals. Research par- 
ticipants can overlook or forget that information 
they are providing to the researcher is not known 
or generally available outside of the research site. 
For example, they may discuss information obtained 
from the entity's intranet site concerning new 
product development, acquisitions, or investments 

Anonymity and Confidentiality 


that have not yet been made available outside of 
the entity, or specific personnel matters or indi- 
viduals. It is the researcher's responsibility to 
ensure that this type of information is not pub- 
lished even when it might represent a significant 
component or aspect of the research study. If such 
information is disclosed, it is the reputation of the 
researcher and potentially the researcher's institu- 
tional affiliation that is damaged. 

Privacy and confidentiality form one of the 
major cornerstones of the ethical research policies 
concerned with the use of human subjects in 
research. Research ethics boards (REBs; Canada) 
and institutional review boards (IRBs; United 
States) have been established in academic institu- 
tions as well as other entities engaged in research 
of and using humans. Researchers must receive 
approval from the relevant committee prior to 
conducting the study. 

In their application to their REB or IRB, research- 
ers are required to describe how they will maintain 
the anonymity of the research participants through 
the use of pseudonyms and the publication of gen- 
eral rather than specific descriptions of demograph- 
ics. They must address the physical safeguarding of 
data, for example, interview tapes and transcripts, 
restriction of access to the data, and methods of 
destruction upon completion of the study. Finally, 
the researcher must indicate whether any of the 
research data will be disclosed to third parties. All 
of these procedures are designed to maintain ano- 
nymity and confidentiality. In practice, researchers 
may be required to seek approval from more than 
one board or committee, particularly if their 
research involves educational (e.g., elementary and 
secondary schools) or healthcare institutions (e.g., 
hospitals) and their constituents. Failure to obtain 
the necessary approvals can result in the cancella- 
tion of the study. 

Methodological Challenges 

Case studies often focus on how people live their 
lives and act in particular, situated contexts. The 
removal of identifying information and suppres- 
sion of confidential information can lead to the 
removal of the contextual information that is of the 
greatest interest and value to the researcher. Thus 
the researcher is faced with the challenge of pre- 
senting significant findings from a study while 

maintaining the anonymity of the participants and 
preserving confidential information. This challenge 
can be compounded when the case study involves 
a small number of participants; the phenomenon 
under investigation is limited to a small commu- 
nity; or a third party is intimately familiar with the 
researcher's work or the research site (entity and 
individuals). The generalization or removal of 
certain identifying characteristics does not always 
remove the risk of identification nor reduce the risk 
related to the publication of confidential informa- 
tion. In some situations it may be necessary to omit 
any reference to the individual or entity. 

Clifford Christians notes that despite all efforts 
on the part of the researcher, the maintenance of 
watertight confidentiality is almost impossible to 
attain. Insiders may recognize the pseudonyms and 
disguised locations. Information perceived as 
harmless by the researcher may, in reality, be per- 
ceived quite differently by the participants. One 
suggested approach to mitigate this risk of identi- 
fication is to engage the participants actively in the 
drafting of the research findings. At the same time, 
the researcher must balance the need to protect the 
participants with the need to maintain the integrity 
and value of the study. 


In her study of women managers leaving their 
work organizations, Judi Marshall conducted in- 
depth interviews with 17 participants. One par- 
ticipant subsequently withdrew during the final 
phases of the study because of her articulated con- 
cern that she could or would be identified. Gloria 
Miller noted in her study of women working in the 
Canadian oil patch that it was necessary to remove 
any identifying characteristics (e.g., position title, 
description of organization, location of employer, 
nature of involvement in the oil industry) because 
the Canadian oil industry was densely intercon- 
nected. That is, the industry was a small, geographi- 
cally concentrated industry where networking was 
prevalent and individuals moved among the com- 
panies. This created a risk that someone familiar 
with the industry would be able to identify one or 
more of the participants in the study. 

In a study of the careers of women accountants 
conducted by Peggy Wallace, several participants 
spoke freely about the challenges encountered 


Anonymizing Data for Secondary Use 

while working in public accounting firms. Their 
challenges ranged from the time demands and com- 
mitments of the profession and public accounting 
firms to lack of support from identified members of 
a firm. In one case, a participant provided financial 
information about a firm in order to illustrate the 
magnitude of her challenge. While this was exactly 
the type of information the researcher was looking 
for, the financial information could not be used as 
it was not known or made available outside of the 
partnership. It also proved to be very difficult to 
mask the identity of the participant without losing 
the context and value of her particular story. 
Because of concerns about the possibility of some- 
one identifying this individual, a decision was made 
to exclude her detailed story from the study. 

Critical Summary 

The very characteristics that make case study 
research valuable in terms of providing insights and 
in-depth information about a particular phenome- 
non are the same characteristics that create ethical 
and methodological challenges concerning ano- 
nymity and confidentiality. The researcher who 
uses case studies must always deal with these chal- 
lenges and balance the value of publishing the 
research findings against compromising the ano- 
nymity of the participants and information pro- 
vided in confidence. There is no easy or simple way 
to resolve these challenges. The researcher must 
address the issues as they arise and take appropri- 
ate steps to resolve them to everyone's satisfaction. 
At the same time, researchers should not avoid case 
studies due to the existence of these challenges. 

Peggy Wallace 

See also Anonymizing Data for Secondary Use; 

Credibility; Ethics; Inductivism; Plausibility; Reliability 

Further Readings 

Christians, C. G. (2005). Ethics and politics in qualitative 
research. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The 
Sage handbook of qualitative research (3rd ed., 
pp. 139-164). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Kanter, R. M. (1993). Men and women of the 
corporation. New York: Basic Books. 

Marshall, J. (1995). Women managers moving on. 
New York: Routledge. 

Miller, G. E. (1998). The frontier "cowboy" myth and 
entrepreneurialism in the culture of the Alberta oil 
industry. Professional women's coping strategies: An 
interpretative study of women's experience. Unpublished 
doctoral dissertation, University of Calgary, Alberta. 

Wallace, P. (2007). Stories within stories: The career 
stories of women chartered accountants: A multi- 
layered analysis of career choice using Beauvoir's 
feminist existentialism as the lens. Unpublished 
doctoral dissertation, Saint Mary's University, 
Halifax, Nova Scotia. 

Anonymizing Data 
for Secondary Use 

Anonymizing data is a process that occurs through- 
out the data collection and analysis phases of 
research where identifying information is removed 
from the data in order to protect the privacy of 
research participants, the groups and/or commu- 
nities that are being examined. The process of 
anonymization helps to prepare the data for sec- 
ondary use where it is made accessible to other 
researchers. Secondary use refers to using data to 
examine a question that was not the purpose of 
the original data collection. 

Overview and Discussion 

Data anonymization is an important stage in the 
research process, especially when preparing the 
data for secondary use. Anonymizing data may 
involve several levels and there are many ways it 
can be achieved. 

The first level often involves removing or 
renaming direct identifiers. For example, anony- 
mizing data involves more than simply removing 
the names of the participants under examination. 
It also involves removing or substituting all of the 
elements (e.g., names, places, and addresses) that 
might lead to the identification of an individual or 
group under examination. This can be done by giv- 
ing all participants or cases a pseudonym or a code 
number. Some may argue that it is better to use 
numbers instead of pseudonyms in order to avoid 
the possibility of switching one person's name with 
that of another participant within the same case 
study. Numbers may offer protection against 

Anonymizing Data for Secondary Use 


revealing participants' identity, but they do seem 
somewhat sterile. In using pseudonyms, it may 
also be important to give participants names that 
are appropriate to their generation. A good strat- 
egy might be to go to the most popular names 
from different years to find suitable names. If the 
researcher feels confident that it is not to the detri- 
ment of anonymity, it might be useful to choose a 
name that starts with the same letter — Jack to Joe 
for instance. This then might help when analyzing 
the data and keeping in mind the person rather 
than just his or her words. 

Establishing pseudonyms early in the research 
process is helpful. Changing the names when first 
proofreading the transcripts provides space to 
become familiar with the pseudonym. The point is 
to keep the data alive and, at the very least, associ- 
ated with that person but not identifiable. It is also 
important for the original researchers to keep a 
cross-referencing system, which is needed to link 
original names to the data. 

The second level involves removing or renaming 
indirect identifiers. A common technique involves 
restricting the more extreme or deviant cases, par- 
ticularly within qualitative data. Another approach 
is referred to as bracketing, where categories of a 
certain variable, like age and income, are com- 
bined. For example, birth dates should be con- 
verted into age categories. Other indirect but 
specific personal information that could identify 
participants could be anonymized in the same way. 
Another strategy is to collapse or to combine vari- 
ables by creating a summary variable. Within 
qualitative research, anonymizing is often more 
difficult because many identifiers will often need to 
be removed. Depending on how small the case 
study is, certain places may also need to be 
renamed in order to protect the anonymity of the 
community under investigation. 

Finally, at the third level, researchers need to 
decide whether their data are simply too sensitive 
to be made publicly available. The data may be 
deemed so identifiable that they cannot be made 
publicly accessible for secondary analysis. 

In all cases it is important for researchers to 
establish a systematic procedure for replacing, 
bracketing, or deleting text. It is also a good idea for 
researchers to keep a list of all of the items that were 
replaced or removed. Researchers may find it 
worthwhile to proofread the data to develop a sense 

of what needs to be anonymized. All of the research- 
ers involved in the data collection should be involved 
in the data anonymization process because each has 
a different idea of what is important to preserve for 
secondary data use. Researchers should also ensure 
that a copy of the original data be kept. 


When working with sensitive or marginalized 
groups, ensuring that participants' identities remain 
hidden might need to take precedence. People can 
be identified through habits or pastimes and not 
simply by their names. The ability for others to 
backtrack and potentially establish the identity of 
a participant could be through obvious examples, 
such as highest qualification or a rare incident. 
Such information, while seemingly innocuous, 
might be the key to personal identification if the 
participant is part of a small group or close-knit 
community. Other group or community members 
may be aware of the indirect identifiers and be able 
to make the necessary connections back to the 
individual. At one level, it may be necessary to 
make subtle changes in such information or at the 
extreme remove it all together. For example, in a 
study exploring health literacy in gay men, three 
small groups were accessed and participants 
recruited. A participant within one group was the 
only person to hold a PhD, whereas others held 
master's degrees. In this example, it was necessary 
to change the name, age (making him a year 
younger but still in his early 40s), and all mentions 
of degree to "higher degree." This did not substan- 
tially alter the context of the data but did set in 
place safeguards to protect the anonymity of the 
individual as his identity blended in with the others 
with a higher degree. 

On other occasions, it might be necessary to 
remove sections of the data where the indirect iden- 
tifiers cannot be altered in ways that guarantee 
anonymity. For example, in Paul Bellaby, John 
Goldring, and Sara MacKian's study of health lit- 
eracy and the framing of health messages in the gay 
community, the eating habits of a participant's 
mother-in-law were so revealing that no amount of 
anonymization could have concealed the identity to 
his partner. Of course, revealing the eating habits 
was not the problem, it was the associated data, 
which revealed serious health problems. A judgment 



needed to be made between the data/analysis and 
the promises of anonymity. Had the data not been 
removed, it would have been easy to backtrack and 
identify the individual. In both instances above, the 
participants were given a copy of their anonymized 
transcript along with a list of what had been 
removed and the rationale for its removal. They 
were then asked if they felt their anonymity had 
been protected. 

When sampling from small groups or communi- 
ties, identifying features could be the specific activ- 
ity from which the group is formed. For example, 
Bellaby, Goldring, and MacKian recruited partici- 
pants from a gay rugby club. This is an activity 
with a highly specific indirect identifying feature. 
In this instance there are three levels of conceal- 
ment to consider: the identity of participants from 
other group members; the identity of the partici- 
pants from the wider population; and finally, the 
identity of the group. The group was labeled "ath- 
letes," which kept their sporting connection but 
hid the actual activity. It was then necessary to 
bracket out the specific activity from the tran- 
scripts. The same standard of anonymizing the 
data was still required so that other group mem- 
bers could not identify each other. In this instance, 
it was necessary to collapse and combine the nar- 
ratives of participants so that the analysis of the 
group was referred to when presenting the subse- 
quent report. 

Critical Summary 

Anonymizing data for secondary use involves tell- 
ing the story of what is happening within a case 
without telling whose story. Important benefits 
include protecting the identity of the research par- 
ticipants, saving time and money by avoiding the 
collection of similar primary data, and creating an 
opportunity to develop a better understanding of a 
phenomenon that was unpredictable at the time of 
the original data collection. For example, some of 
our understanding of the causes of disease can be 
attributed to secondary data analysis. 

Disadvantages of anonymizing case study data 
include that it may distort the data when contex- 
tual factors are removed. It is also often difficult 
to know how much anonymization is enough. 
Anonymizing data may make them more difficult 
to link with other data. Finally, ethical issues also 

need to be considered. For example, did partici- 
pants give informed consent for others to use the 
data for reasons other than the initial purpose of 
the data? There are also issues about who has 
ownership of the data once they are open for other 
researchers to use. 

Sally Lindsay and John Goldring 

See also Anonymity and Confidentiality; Case Study 
Database; Extreme Cases; Reliability; Secondary Data 
as Primary 

Further Readings 

Bellaby, P., Goldring, J. E., & MacKian, S. C. (2007). 
Health literacy and the framing of health messages in 
the gay community (Full Research Report; Economic 
and Social Research Council End of Award Report, 
RES-000-22-1486). Swindon, UK: Economic and 
Social Research Council. 

Dale, A., Arbor, S., & Proctor, M. (1988). Doing 
secondary analysis. London: Unwin Hyman. 

Thomson, D., Bzdel, L., Golden-Biddle, K., Reay, T., & 
Estabrooks, C. (2005). Central questions of 
anonymization: A case study of secondary use of 
qualitative data. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 
6(1), Article 29. Retrieved March 30, 2009, from 

Thorne, S. (1990). Secondary analysis in qualitative research: 
Issues and implications. In J. M. Morse (Ed.), Critical 
issues in qualitative research methods. London: Sage. 

Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: Design and 
methods (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 


ANTi-history is an approach to the study of the 
past that draws on actor-network theory (ANT), 
poststructuralism, and the sociology of knowl- 
edge. ANTi-history sets out to simultaneously 
represent and destabilize selected past events with 
the ultimate aim of pluralizing history. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

ANTi-history, developed by Gabrielle Durepos 
and Albert J. Mills, draws on poststructuralism, 



the sociology of knowledge, and ANT to make 
sense of the past. The approach developed out of 
an interest in how knowledge, particularly histori- 
cized knowledge, comes into being and influences 
human action. The interest in knowledge is rooted 
in the concerns of the sociology of knowledge to 
understand the social base or roots of knowledge. 
The interest in history is rooted in the concerns of 
Foucauldian poststructuralism to understand the 
ways in which the present is constructed through 
reference to past events, that is, that history can 
be seen as a study of the present rather than of the 
past. To trace the social bases of present knowl- 
edge, Durepos and Mills draw on ANT, which 
seeks to reassemble the present through tracing 
the sociopolitics of actors over time by focusing 
on the way networks of ideas cohere, or are punc- 
tuated, in forms of knowledge. Building on Bruno 
Latour's ANT, Durepos and Mills set out to fuse 
together insights from the sociology of knowl- 
edge, poststructuralism, and ANT to develop a 
historiography that is capable of dealing with the 
past as "available" through innumerable traces 
whose construction lends itself to equally innu- 
merable histories. As such it is a method for 
simultaneously assembling and destabilizing his- 
tories. In other words, it is an approach that 
encourages the development (or reassembling) of 
historical analyses, not simply to represent the 
past but also to reveal alternative readings (or 
histories) that surface that which is marginalized, 
hidden, suppressed. In the process, histories are 
revealed as useful guides to human action at the 
same time that they are destabilized by an under- 
standing that they are reassembled for current 
action rather than grounded in fact. Hence the 
term ANTi-history, which draws on the signifier 
of ANT to signal a link with actor-network theory 
and that suggests the tension between the simulta- 
neous construction and destabilization of history 


Above all else, ANTi-history is a liberationist proj- 
ect aimed at revealing the social bases of knowl- 
edge, particularly knowledge that has the added 
significance of being punctuated as history. In this 
way, people can become aware of the sociopolitical 
role of history and its significance in the creation 

and privileging of identities. To that end, an ANTi- 
history approach involves a number of processes 
that include critique of existing histories as partial 
and, in the words of Hayden White, invented 
rather than found, and in the reassembling of alter- 
native histories that simultaneously bring to the 
fore previously marginalized voices and destabilize 
existing history as one of various alternative read- 
ings. The approach thus is far reaching and 
requires considerable time, commitment, and 
access to relevant actors and materials. 

An example of ANTi-history can be seen in the 
recent work of Durepos and her colleagues on the 
study of Pan American Airways (PAA). This airline 
was in operation from 1927 until its collapse in 
1991. In its day, it had a powerful influence on the 
culture as well as the economy of the United States. 
Much of this had to do with the sociopolitical role 
of the airline over time but was also helped in later 
years by a series of histories of the airline that kept, 
or perhaps revived, its influence in popular culture. 
Examination of the various histories presents a 
fairly coherent story in terms of the main charac- 
ters and events involved. The main difference 
between the histories centers on the attention given 
to some events over others and the time in which 
they were written. The earliest history of PAA, for 
example, was published during World War II and 
focused more on the heroic contribution of the 
airline to the war effort. Later histories give more 
time and attention to different decades and events 
beyond the war years. 

Reading the various histories from an ANTi- 
history perspective requires detailed notation of 
highlighted characters and events (using a form of 
content analysis); analysis of the organizational 
discourses that appear to be embedded in the mate- 
rials discussed (using critical discourse analysis); 
analysis of the relationship between each text's 
author(s), the context in which they are writing, 
and the intended audience (using critical hermeneu- 
tics); and an interrogation of the various texts to see 
who and what is privileged and who and what is 
marginalized, hidden, not discussed. In this particu- 
lar case, PAA histories privilege men over women, 
whites over people of color, U.S. citizens over peo- 
ple of other nationalities; some form of benevolent 
U.S. imperialism over other forms of imperialism; 
technology over tradition; entrepreneurship over 
bureaucracy; and private ownership over public 



ownership. In the process, women and people of 
color are marginalized and barely make their way 
into the story. The peoples of Latin and South 
America are marginalized in some cases (e.g., as 
plot devices to reveal the skills and intelligence of 
PAA's managers), hidden in most cases (e.g., with 
the story focusing on PAA's ability to expand its 
airline through acquisitions and deals), or demon- 
ized (e.g., as in stories that range from attempts to 
obstruct PAA's expansion in South America to 
threats to U.S. interests in the Panama Canal). 

In the development of a case study of a particu- 
lar person, organization, or event, written histories 
are but one important source of material in the 
pursuit of an ANTi-history. Access to the selected 
person or members and former members of an 
organization are also important as is access to 
archival materials. In the case of PAA, entry to the 
organization was impossible as the company closed 
in 1991. This made access to former employees 
very difficult if not impossible. However, there does 
exist an extensive archive of over 1,500 boxes, 
housed at the Otto Richer Library of the University 
of Miami. The latter allowed Durepos and her col- 
leagues to examine numerous historical "traces" to 
scrutinize not the extent to which existing histories 
of PAA were based on selected readings of materi- 
als (that is taken as a given), but the sociopolitical 
processes that shaped those readings. 

A number of findings have been developed from 
the emergent ANTi-history of PAA and have been 
written about elsewhere. They include the develop- 
ment of a prominent story of myth-like propor- 
tions that positioned PAA and its leaders as heroic 
in the World War II struggle against the Nazis. It is 
a story that constructs the Colombian state as Nazi 
collaborators, or at best opportunists, in what is 
characterized as a German threat to U.S. interests, 
specifically the Panama Canal. Through a detailed 
sifting of the PAA archive and other materials, 
Durepos and her colleagues were able to conclude 
that the myth of the German threat was only a 
partial reading of events. Moreover, the construc- 
tion of the myth can be tied to a series of sociopo- 
litical actions that preceded World War II but were 
punctuated by the onset of war, which served to 
"confirm" and "legitimize" previous conjecture. 
An alternative, but also partial, reading of events 
suggests that the myth of the German threat, built 
on a combination of xenophobic fear of strangers 

and an organizational drive to establish a monop- 
oly situation, served to encourage the U.S. State 
Department to ensure PAA an unimpeded expan- 
sion throughout South America. 

The outcome of this and other studies of PAA is 
to destabilize existing histories not by showing 
that they were based on partial readings of events 
but that any history is based on a partial reading 
of events and is shaped by the sociopolitical con- 
texts in which the historicized subject and the his- 
torian were located. 

Critical Summary 

The development of ANTi-history is in its infancy 
and is designed not to replace existing mainstream 
histories with alternative, for example, feminist, 
Marxist, or postcolonial, histories but rather to 
encourage stories of the past that serve to destabi- 
lize existing histories and surface the marginalized, 
the hidden, and the denigrated in history. This 
does not mean the end of history per se but rather 
a pluralizing of historical accounts that recognizes 
and celebrates the problematic nature of history 
and its link to knowledge, power, and identity. It 
involves a careful balance between developing his- 
tories that do not, in the process, privilege history 
in the development of cultural knowledge of all 
kinds. It involves the careful development of story- 
telling that serves to tell a tale without telling the 
tale. It involves giving voice to a plurality of voices 
without deemphasizing any of the voices. It involves 
surfacing hitherto marginalized voices through 
histories that simultaneously legitimize those voices 
while delegitimizing the project of history itself. 
These are all serious challenges to the acceptance 
and viability of ANTi-history but, arguably, well 
worth the effort. 

Albert J. Mills and Gabrielle Durepos 

See also Actor-Network Theory; Critical Discourse 
Analysis; Poststructuralism 

Further Readings 

Durepos, G., Helms Mills, J., & Mills, A. J. (2008). 
Flights of fancy: Myth, monopoly and the making of 
Pan American Airways. Journal of Management 
History, 14(2), 116-127. 

Archival Records as Evidence 


Durepos, G., & Mills, A. J. (2008, August). Was there 
ever a plot?: Towards an ANTi-history. Paper 
presented at the Critical Management Studies Division 
of the Academy of Management annual meeting, 
Anaheim, CA. 

Durepos, G., Mills, A. J., & Helms Mills, J. (2008). Tales 
in the manufacture of knowledge: Writing a company 
history of Pan American World Airways. Management 
& Organizational History, 3(1), 63-80. 

Foucault, M. (1973). The order of things: An archaeology 
of the human sciences. New York: Vintage Books. 

Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social. Oxford, UK: 
Oxford University Press. 

Mannheim, K. (1968). Ideology and Utopia. London: 

White, H. (1985). Tropics of discourse: Essays in cultural 
criticism. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 

Archival Records as Evidence 

Archival records are an invaluable tool of data 
gathering for case study research that is focused 
on the past and its impact on the present. The 
careful analysis of archival records can provide 
valuable information on the life, concerns, and 
aspirations of individuals and groups, as well as 
on the activity, structure, mission, and goals of 
associations, organizations, and institutions. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Archives mostly consist of personal and/or public 
written documents, maps, and official and private 
letters, but more recently also of audio- and video- 
tapes, and Internet-based materials have also been 
included among archival records. For centuries, 
archives have been gathered, preserved, managed, 
and analyzed by kings, local and national govern- 
ments, religious organizations, the army, the courts, 
the police and the intelligence services, universities, 
communities, associations, and even individuals. 
Moreover, the secret archives of the East German 
intelligence service (the political police popularly 
known as the Stasi), which has been open to the 
public since 1991, included about 15,000 trans- 
parent jars containing small samples of interro- 
gated victims. To facilitate easy access and analysis, 
and in order to protect original documents from 
damage resulting from their frequent use, some 

larger archives have started to transfer their writ- 
ten records onto microfiche or electronic support. 
Archives whose records are neatly catalogued 
are easier to access than collections that are not, or 
are poorly organized. This is especially important 
for larger archives, where browsing can be time 
consuming, tedious, and expensive, without guar- 
anteeing an interesting find. By granting access 
to only a fraction of documents, uncatalogued 
archives allow for interesting exploratory work, 
but not for a broader understanding of the activity, 
structure, and goals of the individual, group, or 
organization that produced them. 


When using archival records as evidence, a number 
of questions need to be raised. Serious limitations 
can affect the nature of the questions researchers 
try to answer and the reliability of their final 
research results. Some limitations can be mitigated 
by collecting additional information from sources 
independent of the archives initially consulted. 
Other times, however, researchers will need to 
reformulate their research question to take these 
limitations into account, and to be aware of the 
limited generalizability of their research results. 

First, questions must be asked about the archi- 
val record under consideration. Is the archival 
record genuine? If not, which of its sections, para- 
graphs, sentences, or words cannot be dated with 
precision, and which ones appear to have been 
modified (added, deleted, altered) at a later time? 
The history of the record, as pieced together from 
independent sources and the archive holder, is a 
good starting point to ascertain how much of the 
record is genuine, and when (and sometimes even 
why) changes to it were made (by adding hand- 
written comments or deleting some words and 
paragraphs). An archival record will have to be 
dated, a process that can be difficult as not all 
archives were fully catalogued, and can result only 
in educated guesses, as the record might include no 
indication as to the time when it was produced. 

Second, researchers must be aware that not all 
archives were systematically collected. Some of 
them do not include many relevant documents, 
either because those documents were destroyed 
intentionally or accidentally or because they were 
scattered among other archived collections. For 


Archival Records as Evidence 

example, like most other individuals, celebrity or 
ordinary folk, Beethoven did not collect all of his 
personal documents throughout his life, likely 
because he did not intend to make them available 
to posterity, because the task would have taken up 
valuable time he could dedicate to his music, and 
because by the end of his life the archive would 
have become too large and cumbersome to access, 
use, and move around. The digital archive of the 
Beethoven House in Bonn makes around 26,000 
pages of handwritten music sheets, letters, first edi- 
tions, pictures, and objects available to the public, 
but these archival records represent just a fraction 
of all written documents produced and collected 
by the composer throughout his life. A biographer 
researching Beethoven's life must thus be careful to 
supplement this archive with information collected 
from other sources. 

Third, archive producers and/or custodians 
sometimes willingly destroy or hide material that 
would reflect negatively on them, their organiza- 
tion, or their country. In 1989, for example, secret 
agents of the Stasi shredded nearly 45 million sen- 
sitive documents, which filled about 16,000 plastic 
bags. Since the collapse of the Eastern European 
communist regimes, many intelligence service 
secret archives have been modified through the 
destruction and alteration of original documents 
and the addition of newly fabricated material 
aimed at hiding the past collaboration with the 
communist secret political police of prominent 
postcommunist politicians or to blackmail inno- 
cent citizens by portraying them as former secret 
informers. Many secret documents include hand- 
written annotations that cannot be precisely dated. 
According to credible reports, files detailing the 
activities of victims of communist repression were 
modified in order to present those persons as vic- 
timizers and thus reduce their chance to be elected 
to parliament. Eastern Europe alone grants citi- 
zens, historians, and researchers access to signifi- 
cant sections of its secret archives, but the extant 
archives differ significantly from the archives as 
they were in 1989, and as such they should not be 
accepted uncritically. 

Governments and organizations around the 
world generally do not grant access to their recent 
documents, and they often keep at least part of their 
archived records hidden from public sight. Usually, 
documents produced in the past 30, 50, or 70 years 

are not made available in order to protect the indi- 
viduals who are still living and might suffer if their 
past actions were publicly exposed. This is the case 
even when the individuals were involved in human 
rights abuses, as were junta members in Latin 
American countries. Even in Germany, where citi- 
zens have access to a larger number of documents 
produced by state agencies than anywhere else, the 
records of the military intelligence remain classified, 
as they are throughout the world. Not only govern- 
ments protect sensitive data. Over the years, several 
Swiss banks have refused to grant access to infor- 
mation on the accounts and deposits of Holocaust 
victims, although that information would have 
helped relatives to recover lost family fortunes. 

Last but not least, it is important to remember 
that the reality as reflected in the archived records 
might differ from the reality as experienced by the 
people who lived it. Archival documents often 
reflect the reality as perceived by the organization 
or government that produced them. Repressive 
political regimes monitored a wide range of small 
social and political trespasses (like telling political 
jokes) of individuals who did not consider them- 
selves political dissidents or opposition leaders. As 
Garton Ash explained, as a foreigner visiting East 
Germany he was perceived as a threat to the com- 
munist regime and placed under strict surveillance, 
although he met people not to spy but to research 
his doctoral dissertation. A "thick analysis" con- 
sidering the political and social characteristics of 
that time and place is a must in order to under- 
stand each actor's role in the society. Archival 
records can be used as evidence only if the 
researcher knows the historical context in which a 
record was produced. 

Critical Summary 

Archival records are an important source of infor- 
mation that scholars in the social sciences and 
humanities may rely on for case study research. 
When used systematically together with informa- 
tion drawn from other independent sources, archi- 
val records can shed light on the past and its 
relationship with current events, and can help us to 
understand the activity, aspirations, and goals of 
individuals and groups, and the organizational 
structure, mission, and objectives of associations, 
organizations, and state institutions. Researchers 



must be aware of the possible limitations related to 
format and the content of the archival record, and 
use thick description to contextualize the social 
and political setting in which the document was 

Lavinia Stan 

See also Data Resources; Depth of Data 

Further Readings 

Bruce, G. (2001, Fall-Winter). Update on the Stasi 
archives. Cold War International History Project 
Bulletin (12-13), pp. 348-350. 

Carmichael, D. W. (2003). Organizing archival records: 
A practical method of arrangement and description 
for small archives (2nd ed.). Walnut Creek, CA: 
Altamira Press. 

Garton Ash, T. (1998). The file: A personal history. 
London: Vintage Books. 

McAdams, J. A. (2001). judging the past in unified 

Germany. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 

Stan, L. (2005). Inside the Securitate archives. Cold War 
International History Project. Retrieved March 24, 
2009, from the Woodrow Wilson International Center 
for Scholars Web site: 

Stan, L. (2006). The vanishing truth: Politics and memory 
in post-communist Europe. East European Quarterly, 
40, 383-408. 

Her seven functions of a narrative are tied explic- 
itly to the narrator's intended audience. First, 
Riessman points out that remembering the past for 
a particular audience is the most common use of 
narrative. It is the meaningful retelling of events to 
someone who may not have been there. Second, 
narratives are used to present an argument. 
Narrators present a narration in order to illustrate 
a point they are trying to articulate. Third, and 
related to the previous function, narratives can be 
used to persuade a skeptical audience to accept a 
particular truth. Not only will narrators present 
their point of view through a story, but they will 
also try to get the audience of the narrative to 
agree with them. The next function Riessman 
describes is the engagement of the audience into 
identifying with the narrator's experiences. This is 
an emotional aspect in that the narrator wants the 
audience to "buy into" what is being told. Fifth, 
narratives can be entertaining. Riessman says that 
this is one of the most overlooked functions in 
academic circles, but it is probably one of the most 
common reasons we tell one another stories in a 
conversation. The sixth function can be the use of 
a narrative to mislead an audience. A false story 
could be told so that the audience does not dis- 
cover a particular "truth" about the narrative 
itself. Lastly, narratives can be employed to insti- 
gate social change. Personal stories can be told in 
order to make the personal political, so that people 
will take up a cause. 


Building on the foundations of Erving Goffman's 
dramaturgical theory, narrative researchers recog- 
nize that the narratives we tell are not simply 
individual endeavors but social ones where we 
present ourselves to another. Narratives are con- 
structed and performed with the audience in 
mind. Because of this dialogical element, we may 
not be able to know the "subject" or "experi- 
ences," but solely the narratives. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

As Catherine Kohler Riessman indicates, the func- 
tion of narratives revolves around the audience. 


Riessman applies this understanding of audience in 
her case study of two men's illness narratives. In 
this study, Riessman demonstrates how, within 
each narrative telling, the men are developing and 
performing their narrative in a way that makes it 
obvious that the audience is taken into account. 
Her first case, Randy, demonstrates how the audi- 
ence is important in realizing which narrative self 
is performed and at what point in the interview. 
Two examples of this include (1) how the research- 
er's obvious discomfort with discussion on explor- 
ing homosexual identity steered the narrative in a 
potential new direction from where Randy would 
have wanted to go; and (2) how as an academic 
Randy felt comfortable critiquing the interview 
process, including that there was an insufficient 


Audiovisual Recording 

amount of tape for him to tell all he wished to tell. 
The second case, Burt, shows how the desire for 
companionship from the audience, and to rein- 
force a masculine working-class identity in the face 
of disability, become central to the narration. This 
is a heroic tale of survival in the face of many dis- 
ruptions to Burt's identity (divorce, illness, loss of 
employment). With a female audience, both narra- 
tors construct a masculine narrative that takes this 
into account. 

Andrea Doucet's narrative interpretation of 
fathers as primary caregivers points to the impor- 
tance of an epistemology that looks at narratives 
rather than experiences or subjects. Among her 
participants were some men who wanted to be sure 
that the audience knew the sacrifices made in order 
to look after their children. The sacrifices of leaving 
paid work and becoming the primary caregiver 
(very nonmasculine decisions) were often made 
when the mothers left the home (there were a range 
of respondents, including stay-at-home fathers, 
single fathers, divorced fathers, and those with 
joint custody). The narratives seemed constructed 
and scripted with the audience in mind. Much like 
Riessman's case study of Burt, the narrative became 
what Doucet calls a "heroic narrative" whereby 
the story is told about the great obstacles the 
fathers had to overcome, both in the past and pres- 
ent, just as those heroes found in myths. Doucet 
examines the case of Mick, a primary caregiver. His 
narrative is ripe with examples of the hurdles he 
had to rise above in order to provide care for his 
daughter. Mick constructed and performed a heroic 
narrative intended to draw upon the audience's 
emotions and perhaps to couch his situation, ste- 
reotypically not masculine, in masculine terms for 
the female researcher. While not explicitly explor- 
ing the notion of audience, Doucet's case of a 
heroic narrative shows that the researcher, as an 
audience, is taken into consideration when a per- 
son tells his or her narrative. This reinforces the 
argument that narratives are not just individual's 
stories but are socially constructed and dialogical. 

Critical Summary 

When looking at case-centered research methods 
that seem very individualistic, such as narratives, it 
is important to realize that an individual's telling 
of experiences and events has a social element. 

Narratives are socially constructed and meaning- 
ful, which means that they are constructed for 
someone to hear at a particular place and time. 
This goes beyond Goffman's theoretical under- 
standing of the performance of self, as narrative 
researchers' awareness incorporates not only the 
individual but also the social structures and rela- 
tionships that surround the narrative. 

L. Lynda Harling Stalker 

See also Character; Dramaturgy; Narrative Analysis; 
Narratives; Self-Presentation; Storyselling; Storytelling 

Further Readings 

Doucet, A. (2006). Do men mother? Toronto: University 

of Toronto Press. 
Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday 

life. New York: Anchor Books. 
Riessman, C. K. (2003). Performing identities in illness 

narrative: Masculinity and multiple sclerosis. 

Qualitative Research, 3(5), 5-33. 
Riessman, C. K. (2008). Narrative methods for the 

human sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Audiovisual Recording 

The ability to record sound and moving images 
offers an exceptional asset for case study research 
in such areas as language development, education, 
or medicine. Recent audiovisual technology has 
overcome the primitive and cumbersome aspects 
of early recording devices. Among these advances 
is the development of digital repositories that can 
store vast quantities of audiovisual data for access 
by large numbers of researchers. 

Historical Beginnings 

With the prevalence of television, portable media 
players, and audio- and video recorders, it is hard 
to imagine a world that lacks the ability to record 
speech, music, and visual motion. Yet the phono- 
graph and the movie camera are only over a cen- 
tury old. These early devices were primitive by 
today's standards. Their value for single case 
research was nevertheless recognized early on. 
Experimental photographer Eadweard Muybridge, 

Audiovisual Recording 


for example, was commissioned by Leland Stanford 
of California in the 1870s to document the motion 
of a race horse so as to determine whether all four 
feet left the ground simultaneously. Muybridge's 
success, through a technique of using multiple cam- 
eras in fast succession, influenced Etienne-Jules 
Marey in France to invent a single camera that 
could take 60 images per second. Marey's motiva- 
tion was his research on animals. With access to the 
individual film frames, he published his results on 
physiology and locomotion in scientific journals. 
For most of the world, however, his invention was 
linked to entertainment and the motion picture 
industry, although Harvard Professor Hugo 
Miinsterberg also foresaw the educational poten- 
tial of film (then called the photoplay). 

In the realm of audio recording, almost immedi- 
ately after Thomas Edison developed the phono- 
graph in 1877, the musicology community seized 
upon this new technology to support the field of 
comparative musicology. Thousands of cylinder 
recordings were made by multidisciplinary teams 
of anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, eth- 
nomusicologists, and musicologists across many 
countries. Such collections have been preserved in 
Britain, Germany, the United States, Canada, and 
elsewhere. The recordings faithfully represented 
temporal nuances, in spite of noisy acoustic qual- 
ity. The most well-known collector was Austrian 
musicologist Erich von Hornbostel, first director 
of the Berlin Phonogram Archive. Once accessible 
only to researchers living in or visiting Berlin, the 
recordings are being made available digitally over 
the Internet or on compact disks. 


The Harvard psychologist and assistant professor 
Roger Brown was among the first to use high fidel- 
ity tape recording for case study research. He and 
his students visited three children, named Adam, 
Eve, and Sarah, regularly for over a year. The 
researchers recorded discourse with each child and 
then faithfully transcribed the records for analysis. 
Common patterns of language acquisition were 
found across the three children, although the abso- 
lute onset of acquisition of various language skills 
varied. The data refuted a reinforcement theory for 
language acquisition. For example, correction of 
poor grammar or praise for correct grammar had 

little effect. The painstaking data transcription and 
analysis revolutionized the psychology of language 
by providing a new foundation for the field. 

Subsequently, Brian MacWhinney and Catherine 
Snow proposed a computerized library for dis- 
course research whereby transcripts could be 
shared across researchers. In 1984, CHILDES, the 
Children's Language Data Exchange System, was 
born to house the transcripts of discourse obtained 
through research. The system eventually included 
a coding system (CHAT) and an analysis system 
(CLAN) that researchers needed to learn in order 
to use the database to store or analyze transcripts. 
CHILDES enabled researchers interested in similar 
questions to share the data without each having to 
collect it independently. The system proved useful, 
with over 100 researchers entering their linguistic 
data, leading to more than 2,000 research publica- 
tions by them and others who accessed the data- 
base. Whereas CHILDES originally stored text 
transcripts, more modern technology has enabled 
storage of the sound files themselves. Further tech- 
nological development has led to the possibility of 
storing video records, also valuable to psycholin- 
guistic research, for example, for representation of 
facial expression, gesture, interpersonal relations, 
and environmental context. The TALKBANK 
project followed upon CHILDES as a repository 
for audiovisual records of conversation and com- 
munication, of both humans and animals. 

More recently, an even greater level of linguistic 
detail is being recorded for a single case, the child 
of two academic parents. The father, Deb Roy, 
heads MIT Media Lab's Cognitive Machines 
research group. The mother, Rupal Patel, directs the 
Communication Analysis and Design Laboratory 
of the Department of Speech-Language Pathology 
and Audiology at Northeastern University. This 
Human Speechome Project creates the most com- 
prehensive record of a single child's development to 
date. Virtually everything that the child sees and 
hears in his home is recorded minute by minute, 
thus providing a record of the environmental 
stimulation potentially influencing language devel- 
opment. The system includes 11 motion-activated 
video cameras, and 14 microphones. The data are 
transferred for storage to a bank of 10 computers 
with a high storage capacity that are kept in the 
house. When the capacity is filled, the data are 
transferred to a larger facility at MIT, freeing the 

34 Audiovisual Recording 

space at the home base. The amount of data avail- 
able for analysis exceeds the capacity of even a 
group of human researchers, so semi-automatic 
data coding methods, referred to as TotalRecall, 
have been developed. From this single case, general 
principles of language development are expected to 
emerge that may determine the extent to which 
semantic and syntactic acquisition arises from 
exposure to specific incidents of speech. 

Audiovisual recording also facilitates educa- 
tional research. Researcher Victoria Armstrong 
and teacher Sarah Curran have reported a study of 
four teachers' incorporation of interactive (touch 
sensitive) whiteboards for class use. In this study, 
for each of three different one-hour segments of 
teaching by each of the four teachers, two video 
cameras were employed to focus on the entire class 
and its object of attention (e.g., the teacher and the 
whiteboard). The two video streams of informa- 
tion were played back on a split screen and the 
transcript of all important speech was superim- 
posed on the screen. A videodisc was made of this 
information and each teacher was asked to review 
the videos of his or her class and to select the most 
important segments for discussion. The researcher 
viewed all of the videos. At a later stage in the 
project, a software package was employed to assist 
with coding such that each label used had a sepa- 
rate parallel timeline. Discussion of entire patterns 
of parallel annotations by researcher and teachers 
led to an overall understanding and interpretation. 
The outcome was the enabling of new ways of 
thinking about the complexities of classroom 

A comparable example in a medical setting is 
the use of continuous video recording of nurses 
tending to patients with a particular illness. A 
study by Christina Andersen and Lis Adamsen 
revealed both effective and negligent behavior of 
nurses in the context of the reactions and behavior 
of five cancer patients. The nurses, for example, 
communicated about physical care rather than the 
psychological needs of the patients, supporting 
initial hypotheses tested by the research. 

Critical Summary 

Whether in developmental psycholinguistics, 
education, medicine, or some other field of 
research, what characterizes the use of audiovisual 

recording for case studies is the provision of infi- 
nitely rich detail of transient events — records that 
can be analyzed, reanalyzed, and annotated by 
one or many researchers. Present digital technol- 
ogy puts audiovisual recording methodology in 
easy reach from the standpoints of raw data col- 
lection, access, and sharing. Yet, the exploitation 
of these data is in its infancy because having 
access to this vast amount of data is so new. 
Many coding schemes and systems are being 
developed for storage, analysis, and data sharing. 
In addition to the unprecedented magnitude of 
data, challenges in the use of audiovisual record- 
ing for case studies include the time consumption 
for data collection and subsequent coding and 
transcription, choice of coding standards, pri- 
vacy and other ethical issues, reliance on collabo- 
ration, data backup systems, and questions of 
validity (the effect of camera or videographer on 

Annabel J. Cohen 

See also Analysis of Visual Data; Archival Records as 
Evidence; Coding: Open Coding; Coding: Selective 
Coding; Discourse Analysis; Longitudinal Research; 
Multimedia Case Studies; Visual Research Methods 

Further Readings 

Andersen, C, & Adamsen, L. (2001). Continuous video 

recording: A new clinical research tool for studying 

the nursing care of cancer patients. Methodological 

Issues in Nursing Research, 35, 257-267 '. 
Armstrong, V., & Curran, W. (2006). Developing a 

collaborative model of research using digital video. 

Computers & Education, 46, 336-347. 
Brown, R. (1973). A first language: The early stages. 

London: George Allen & Unwin. 
Koch, L.-C, Wiedmann, A., & Ziegler, S. (2004). The 

Berlin Phonogramm-Archiv: A treasury of sound 

recordings. Acoustical Science and Technology, 25, 

MacWhinney, B. (2000). The CHILDES Project: Tools 

for analyzing talk (3rd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence 

Miinsterberg, H. (1916). The photoplay: A psychological 

study. New York: Appleton. 
Roy, D., Patel, R., DeCamp, P., Kubat, R., Fleischman, M., 

Roy, B., et al. (2006). The Human Speechome Project. 

Proceedings of the 28th Annual Cognitive Science 

Conference, 2059-2064. 




Within philosophy the question of authenticity is 
essential to any notion of the "good life" and ven- 
erable as the Socratic argument: The unexamined 
life is not worth living. Authenticity, the quality of 
being authentic, is a central philosophical and 
ethical concept found in the works of Jean-Paul 
Sartre and others such as Lionel Trilling and 
Charles Taylor. Case study and qualitative research 
can be considered valid only if the collection, inter- 
pretation, and assessment of data are authentic. 
Within the social sciences some notion of authen- 
ticity is germane to the objectivity controversy. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Sartre's juxtaposition of subjectivity and objective 
reality underscores the feminist, postcolonial, and 
postmodern critique of objectivity. For Sartre, 
authenticity is the opposite of bad faith and refers 
to the alignment of subjective consciousness (i.e., 
pour-soi) with its objective reality (i.e., en-soi). 
One implication of this dualism and the problem 
of bad faith is that all knowledge is biased. This 
question has been taken up by the postpositivists 
(e.g., feminist, postmodern, postcolonial, queer 
theorists) in their critique of positivism. 

The postpositivist argument is that from within 
the positivist paradigm, researchers (i.e., the sub- 
ject) are required to study human phenomena (i.e., 
the object) objectively. Objectivity is possible only 
when researchers approach the object(s) of their 
research with impartiality and with dispassion so 
as to avoid contaminating it and thus to minimize 
and hopefully eliminate bias. This, the postpositiv- 
ists argue, is impossible because objective reality 
and the subject are always in the process of becom- 
ing and can never be apprehended other than 
through preconceived and always partial frame- 
works or paradigms. Therefore, all research is 
contaminated by researcher subjectivity and what 
comes to be accepted as true is merely that which 
is accepted as such by tradition or authority. 

Given the hierarchical basis of tradition and 
authority, all subjectivities and by extension all 
research serves some, usually dominant (e.g., male, 
modernism, imperialism, heterosexism) as opposed 
to other, often subordinate (e.g., female, Islamic or 

Christian fundamentalists, indigenous peoples, 
homosexuals) interests. Further, the objectivity 
parameter is morally indefensible because it pre- 
empts and silences these alternative voices. If no 
one subjectivity can claim ultimate truth, then all 
subjectivities are equal; thus, the voices not only of 
the researcher but also those of the researched 
must be collected, analyzed, and interpreted. This 
leads to the criterion of reflexivity. 

Finally, if no one voice can be privileged and all 
voices are biased, then truth is always conditional 
and can emerge only through mutual interrogation 
and consensus in situ. This leads researchers 
to adopt a participatory action-based approach. 
Among case study and qualitative researchers, the 
question of authenticity is an important concept 
that leads to the debate on validity and how to col- 
lect and assess trustworthy data as well as their 

Contemporary researchers have solved this 
dilemma in a number of interesting ways. Egon 
Guba and Yvonna Lincoln, for example, argue 
that the question of validity is by definition one of 
authenticity and have identified five criteria: fair- 
ness, ontological authenticity, educative authentic- 
ity, catalytic authenticity, and tactical authenticity. 
Fairness refers to the necessity that there should be 
a balance of voices such that all contributors to the 
research project are heard. Ontological and educa- 
tive authenticity refer to the necessity of raising 
awareness among participants in and those affected 
by the research. Catalytic and tactical authentici- 
ties refer to the prompting by the research of 
interest-based action among research participants 
and the involvement of the researcher in educating 
them, if it is so desired, for political action, and the 
furthering of positive social change. 


In facing the question of authenticity and mirroring 
the five criteria provided by Guba and Lincoln, 
Russell Bishop, based on a review of the existing 
relevant literature, has demonstrated how most 
research on the Maori peoples of Aotearoa/New 
Zealand has tended to serve and perpetuate colo- 
nial interests, denigrate Maori values and practices, 
simplify and misrepresent their knowledge, and 
thus create and perpetuate their subordination. In 
reaction to researcher colonization, the Maori have 


Authenticity and Bad Faith 

become increasingly concerned about to whom 
researchers are accountable, who has control over 
the content and dissemination of research findings, 
as well as who will gain from it, and as a conse- 
quence are now demanding full participation within 
and control of all research pertaining to them. 

To avoid these problems and to assess and ensure 
the authenticity of further research, the Maori con- 
cerns, which by extension would be those of all 
researched groups, particularly those holding sub- 
ordinate status positions, are summarized by Bishop. 
They are: initiation (how does the research origi- 
nate, by whom and for what purpose); benefits 
(who will gain from it); representation (are the find- 
ings trustworthy, and whose depictions of reality 
will be presented); legitimacy (are alternative or 
subordinate voices being heard or silenced); and 
accountability (who has control over the initiation, 
data collection, termination, and dissemination of 
the research). Bishop bases these criteria for research 
findings on a series of reports that have adopted a 
postcolonial approach. 

He concludes that for researchers adopting a 
postcolonial framework there are two important 
requirements and consequences of the endorse- 
ment of authenticity. They are: (1) researcher 
reflexivity and the recognition of and integration 
of authentic Maori values, beliefs, and practices 
resulting in the creation of valuable new knowl- 
edge; and (2) the development of awareness that 
can point the way forward to fresh and positive 
social change. 

Critical Summary 

The research agenda suggested by an adoption of 
the concept of authenticity in practical terms is with- 
out doubt beneficial; however, the logic and implica- 
tions of the philosophical argument underpinning it 
have come under scrutiny. First, if researchers accept 
the doctrine of authenticity, then by definition they 
have accepted a viewpoint originating in the exter- 
nal world and are thus unauthentic. Second, if all 
persons act authentically and solely on the basis of 
their own self-interest, there is no overarching guar- 
antee of group consensus or solidarity. Third, the 
concept of authenticity emanates from the essential- 
ism of Enlightenment philosophy that posits a false 
distinction between subject and object/consciousness 
and the external world that is a logical contradiction 

because subjects and their objects are inseparable 
and thus their separation is now recognized as arti- 
ficial. In sum, while the idea of authenticity may 
have informed a very welcomed move to more open, 
innovative, multivocal, and participatory research 
agendas, the research field, as Guba and Lincoln 
outline, is presently a cacophony of paradigms — 
from positivism to postpositivism, and critical theory 
to constructivism — and their associated methodolo- 
gies ranging from experimental and quantitative, 
modified experimental quantitative and qualitative 
multiplism, dialogic/dialectical, hermeneutical/dia- 
lectal to participatory action, shared experiential 
and autoethnographic. Mutlivocality is at times too 
raucous for the listening ear. 

Janet ill. C. Burns 

See also Objectivity; Postpositivism; Reflexivity; 

Further Readings 

Bishop, R. (2005). Freeing ourselves from neocolonial 
domination in research: A Kaupapa Maori approach 
to creating knowledge. In N. K. Denzin & 
Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The Sage handbook of qualitative 
research (pp. 109-138). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Guba, E. G., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2005). Paradigmatic 
controversies, contradictions, and emerging 
confluences. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), 
The Sage handbook of qualitative research 
(pp. 191-216). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Sartre, J. -P. (1957). Being and nothingness. London: 
Philosophical Library. 

Taylor, C. (1991). The ethics of authenticity. Cambridge, 
MA: Harvard University Press. 

Trilling, L. (1972). Authenticity. Cambridge, MA: 
Harvard University Press. 

Authenticity and Bad Faith 

Authenticity and the related notion of bad faith 
are specific concepts and concerns found in the 
works of the French writer and philosopher Jean- 
Paul Sartre (1905-1980). These ideas can be 
applied to case study research as an approach to 
understanding situated individual freedom as well 
as an ethics of personal freedom of choice. 

Authenticity and Bad Faith 


Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Sartre was largely concerned with freedom, respon- 
sibility, and ethics, and he explored these themes 
through his plays, novels, and his best-known 
philosophic treatise, Being and Nothingness: A 
Phenomenological Ontology. Crucial to under- 
standing Sartre's notion of how one is to act 
authentically (in Sartre's terms, this would be seen 
as acting in good faith,) is understanding the funda- 
mental nature of how we exist in the world. In his 
ontology, Sartre describes two main groups of 
things: those that are so-called being-in-itself 
things that do not possess freedom of choice (e.g., 
a rock) and being-for-itself things that do possess 
freedom and choice (i.e., human beings). Creatures 
of free choice commit bad faith when they act as 
though they do not possess this innate freedom. 
This is therefore seen as acting in a fundamentally 
inauthentic manner, based upon the denial of one's 
own innate ability and freedom to make choices. 

According to Sartre, there are a variety of ways 
in which an individual may act in bad faith. These 
examples he places in some broad categories. For 
instance, simply denying our own freedom of 
choice is one way to act in bad faith. Beyond this 
simple denial of freedom, Sartre also details a 
number of social situations that represent nuanced 
ways in which we might act according to the 
wishes of other people, thereby effectively denying 
ourselves our innate freedom of choice. These 
social situations are broadly termed being-for- 
others. In essence, to deny either our own facticity 
(i.e., the given aspects of our situation, such as 
where we were born or our past choices) or our 
transcendence (our ability to choose to become 
something different from what we are) is to act in 
bad faith. If we privilege one aspect of our being- 
for-itself (facticity or transcendence) over the other 
aspect of our existence as creatures of choice, we 
act in an inauthentic manner. In Sartre's philoso- 
phy, to accept and to actively make decisions based 
upon the sometimes ambiguous interplay between 
these two characteristics of our existence is to act 
authentically and therefore in good faith. 


There are a few notable examples of the specific 
application of authenticity and the ethics of good 
and bad faith in the broad range of case studies. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly there is evidence of the use of 
the ideas surrounding freedom and authenticity con- 
tained in Sartre's own works. These works of phi- 
losophy, plays, and other artistic works are prime 
examples of the existentialist idea of "committed 
literature," which is in itself a type of case study. 

One of Sartre's best-known cases for the exami- 
nation of the bad faith trap found through being- 
for-others is found in Being and Nothingness: A 
Phenomenological Ontology. Sartre spent much of 
his time writing in cafes, so his use of the particular 
case of a waiter acting in bad faith is not surpris- 
ing. Sartre describes how this particular waiter is 
playing at being what he thinks a waiter should be. 
The mannerisms, timing, and actions are all stud- 
ied and practiced in such a way that the waiter is 
treating himself as though he is nothing more than 
a thing (in this case, a waiter in a cafe). This man 
is acting in the manner in which he knows others 
expect a waiter to act. He is acting as more of a 
waiter than any waiter could be. In doing so, the 
waiter is effectively denying his transcendence; by 
example, he is refuting his freedom to be other 
than a waiter. Thus, by treating himself as a being- 
in-itself thing (in this case as the very sort of waiter 
that is expected by others), he is acting without 
authenticity and in bad faith. Through describing 
this case, Sartre captures the sense of the ethical 
transgression found in the bad faith act of denying 
one's own freedom, particularly through accepting 
the constraints found when acting within limita- 
tions placed upon us by others. 

The use of authenticity and bad faith in case 
studies goes beyond the examples and literature 
from philosophers such as Sartre. Svejenova exam- 
ines the case of a famous Spanish filmmaker to 
uncover processes involved in authenticity-driven 
creative career choices. In this study, while not 
specifically citing Sartre's concepts of good and 
bad faith, the operationalization of the term 
authenticity clearly encompasses the balancing 
between facticity and transcendence so necessary 
for a Sartrean view of authentic being. In the con- 
text of a troubled-youth residential treatment pro- 
gram, Leveille offers an assessment of the problems 
and benefits of using a phenomenological approach 
to such treatment. Authenticity and the problems 
of balancing the requirement to both treat the 
residential program attendees as being authentic 
while simultaneously expecting councilors to act 


Author Intentionality 

authentically are explored. The author implicitly 
highlights the difficulty faced when one individu- 
al's freedom of choice is confronted by another 
individual's freedom of choice; the so-called prob- 
lem of the other. This particular challenge is well 
described by Sartre as "the look" and is part of the 
profound difficulty in acting authentically, espe- 
cially when we feel the limitations placed upon us 
by the conceptions of others. 

Finally, there is some appropriation and use of 
Sartre's existentialism, more specifically discus- 
sions of good and bad faith, in the organizational 
analysis literature. Yue and Mills apply Sartre's 
existentialism to an examination of the process of 
organizing and identity construction within a team 
of mountaineers. Through combining the ontology 
of Sartre and the sensemaking epistemology of 
Weick, the authors explore what happens during 
the interruption of organizing processes. Using the 
tale of two climbers and their near tragedy in Peru 
as a case study, the authors illustrate how the free- 
dom to choose one's own identity is essentially a 
survival trait evidenced during the collapse of an 
organizationally based identity. This freedom is 
seen as evidence of an ethical imperative to act in 
good faith, even in terms of how an individual cre- 
ates his or her own identity. In this way, the factic- 
ity of an individual's situation is intertwined with 
the individual's quality of transcendence such that 
we are given an example of how authenticity may 
be played out in the most extreme situations. 

Critical Summary 

Applying Sartre's concepts of authenticity and bad 
faith in case research offers a unique opportunity to 
use a particular concept of ethics to understand how 
individuals navigate their choices and the conse- 
quences of such. Acting authentically in this respect 
requires that individuals recognize the full range of 
their choices and make informed and active deci- 
sions. Through honoring both the facticity of their 
situation and at the same time their capacity to tran- 
scend, individuals may be seen as acting in good 
faith. Likewise, a denial of free will constitutes act- 
ing in bad faith. In case studies, this interplay may 
be examined in terms of a particular decision or 
patterns of decisions as well as implications for the 
self and others. Treating oneself as having no choice, 
or acting unthinkingly in accordance with others' 

conceptions of us is inauthentic. Thus, Sartre's con- 
tention that to act ethically is to act authentically (in 
good faith) is an individual centered ethics; one not 
constrained by external standards or conventions. 
Indeed, to act unthinkingly in accordance with an 
external set of rules would fundamentally be an 
inauthentic act of bad faith because authenticity 
resides uniquely with each one of us. Essentially, 
individual responsibility remains at the heart of 
Sartre's concepts of freedom and likewise forms 
the core of any case analysis that makes use of 
the same. 

Anthony R. Yue 

See also Existentialism 

Further Readings 

Leveille, J. L. (2001). A critical assessment of a reflexive, 
phenomenological approach to the residential 
treatment of troubled youth. Child & Youth Care 
Forum, 30(3), 155-174. 

Levy, N. (2002). Sartre. Oxford, UK: Oneworld 

Sartre, J. -P. (2005). Being and nothingness: A 

phenomenological ontology (H. E. Barnes, Trans.). 
London, UK: Routledge. (Original work published 

Svejenova, S. (2005). "The path with the heart": Creating 
the authentic career. Journal of Management Studies, 
42(5), 947-974. 

Weick, K. E. (1995). Sensemaking in organizations. 
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Yue, A. R., & Mills, A. J. (2006). Making sense out of 
bad faith: Sartre, Weick and existential sensemaking in 
organizational analysis. Proceedings of the Standing 
Conference on Organizational Symbolism (SCOS) 
XXIV, Nimegen, the Netherlands: Standing 
Conference on Organizational Symbolism. 

Author Intentionality 

Author intentionality in case study research refers 
to the rationale, set(s) of reasons, or circumstances 
that have led to the conception, design, and imple- 
mentation of a particular study. Simply put, what 
factors contributed to the author's interest and 
approach to a particular study? 

Author Intentionality 


Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Author intentionality may be declared, implied, or 
inferred depending on what authors choose to 
reveal about themselves or their motivation that 
might provide added value to understanding 
aspects of the approach to problem conception 
and formulation. 

In declared intentionality, the author openly 
professes orienting perspectives that underlie ratio- 
nale, problem-posing, or methodology. A declara- 
tion such as "I teach learning disabled kids in a 
public school, am studying cognition, and want to 
learn more about the poor reading skills of young 
males" made as part of an introduction or in a 
biographical note gives the reader an inside track. 
Detectable in the declaration are the author's pro- 
fession, professional interests, and location of 
work as well as likely qualifications, educational 
background, and current academic status, in addi- 
tion to the guiding practical assumption for the 
main question (i.e., poor reading). 

Implied intentionality is less obvious than 
declared intentionality and follows implicit orien- 
tations that are consistent with guidance from 
a superordinate authority, such as discipline or 
department expectations might require. If an 
author is a member of a predominantly behaviorist 
academic environment, conducts research, and 
publishes articles in behaviorist journals that 
invoke principles and practices consistent with 
behaviorism, it may be assumed that the author is 
most likely a behaviorist and that the intentional- 
ity of her or his research leans in that direction. 

Inferred intentionality involves a hermeneutic 
or interpretative reading of materials where little 
may be known of the author, such as might occur 
when referees provide blind reviews for journals or 
when new scholars encounter names unknown to 
them. Text in the context of declared or implied 
intentionality carries both message and messenger. 
Text without context, or message without messen- 
ger, can be judged by the reader only from her or 
his prior knowledge and on the merits of the text 
itself. Making the intentions for a particular choice 
of research topic or approach obvious does not 
imply any measure of quality or insight. 

Author intentionality can be derived from an 
expressed or felt social or personal need, findings 
from a needs assessment, response to a funded call 

for proposals, or simply heeding the call to publish 
or perish; all give rise to initiation of research and 
the engagement of authors. Author intentionality is 
a double-edged sword in that a champion is often 
required to bring needed research to the attention of 
the scholarly community and investigative fruition, 
but excessive advocacy can represent the same 
dilemma as experimenter bias in quantitative research 
in that confounds or alternative explanations of cir- 
cumstances and findings may not receive the bal- 
anced treatment required for robust conclusions. 
Subjective-objectivity or objective-subjectivity are 
more than semantic twists and represent a state that 
many researchers strive for and never quite reach. By 
virtue of conceiving and undertaking a research 
project, the attention and subsequent investment of 
time, energy, and other expenditures create a vested 
interest on the part of the researcher. 

Author intentionality may arise implicitly from 
tacit assumptions embedded in the personal his- 
tory of the researcher. Influences from demo- 
graphic traits such as race, class, gender, geography, 
political stance, or religious conviction may find 
encouragement or challenge when reconstructed 
through the rigors of formal graduate study. If a 
researcher with a given set of personal attributes or 
characteristics undertakes a study of a group shar- 
ing those characteristics, then a (dis) advantage of 
insider knowledge may occur. Insider knowledge 
can be advantageous to the extent that it allows 
the researcher special insights into issues that those 
under study experience. 

By way of example, teachers who study teach- 
ing can be expected to have a range of insider 
knowledge that encompasses subtleties of teaching 
not available to a researcher from another field, 
such as an epidemiologist. However, in teaching, 
subvariations from (dis) ability or demographics 
may constrain appreciation of specific perspec- 
tives. A teacher of English carrying out research 
may be aware of, but lack specific knowledge of, 
dyslexia and its many subtypes, or of critical femi- 
nist views of text, subtext, and context that affect 
understanding the cross-disciplinary fullness of an 
issue. Author intentionality may apply here as well 
if the intention of the research is to understand, 
learn, and discover as well as produce a specific 
nugget of knowledge about an event. 

The disadvantage of insider knowledge 
includes such situations as perceptual blindness 


Author Intentionality 

or hypersensitivity because of situation or event 
familiarity in which basic assumptions are actu- 
ally unchallenged or taken-for-granted under- 
standings or principles arising from personal 
history or uncritically accepted professional 
experience. For example, in an era of school 
change, many new policies are put into practice 
based on research that deals with effective imple- 
mentation but without initial research determin- 
ing the actual need for change and the level of 
expected agreement and cooperation among 
those affected. Author intentionality as a nega- 
tive effect may be neutralized to the extent that 
the author is willing to step aside from personal 
history and taken-for-granted assumptions and 
adopt an open-minded inquiring stance. 


Max Weber and others have written about and 
discussed the ideas underlying a verstehen approach 
in which the researcher first simply seeks to under- 
stand the circumstances of the situation in which 
the study will be located and carried out. Such 
research by wandering around assists the develop- 
ment of intentionality in ways less affected by 
predisposition, as the basis for inquiry dependent 
on perspective(s) brought by the researcher are 
tempered by deepened understanding and consul- 
tation with those under study. Judicious applica- 
tion of "Well, so what?" and "Who benefits?" 
questions applied to study descriptions can iden- 
tify and expose interests that might affect question 
or hypothesis development and choice of method- 
ology and methods that can affect outcome. Bodies 
of research do exist that stand in opposition to 
each other, as might be found in studies that sup- 
port the harm or harmlessness of substances such 
as tobacco, alcohol, or marijuana, where vested 
interests may guide author intentionality. 

A clear contrast of the types of intentionality is 
most visible in the works of such writers as Richard 
Dawkins, whose views of evolution and God 
exemplify declared intentionality. "Intelligent 
Design: The Scientific Alternative to Evolution" 
exemplifies implied intentionality and is produced 
by writers whose works and words consistently 
support a creationist or intelligent genre. An exam- 
ple of inferred intentionality can be found in 
Rushton's Race, Evolution, and Behavior, in which 

the author infers individual differences based on 
race alone. 

Author intentionality may also be a necessary 
condition of discovery in some types of investiga- 
tive inquiry. Beyond the ever-elusive causal rela- 
tionships between and among researchable events, 
the idea of logical relationships can be considered. 
Fostered by a Sherlock Holmes-like disposition, 
developed through a verstehen approach, felt con- 
nections and entertainment of logical relationships 
between and among events or individuals may 
assist in the production of issues and questions to 
be addressed through more structured approaches 
and contribute to an emergent author intentional- 
ity. Observation of increased literacy among young 
people that focuses on how the capacity to read is 
best attained (e.g., phonics vs. whole language) will 
likely experience skewed results unless taking into 
account the era of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter 
books and the subsequent spike in reading interest 
that also leads to addressing the what of reading. 

Ex post facto (after the fact) research as consid- 
ered in quantitative applications draws on cold data 
used to describe or infer occurrences or patterns in 
time after an event has occurred. A similar approach 
is used to conduct biographical or historical research 
where the author's intention may relate to discover- 
ing and illustrating evidence that confirms, con- 
forms to, or contradicts an existing arrangement or 
interpretation of events or artifacts. History depends 
on the historian and accounts for variations in 
rationale and fact interpretation such as might 
occur in British, American, or Native accounts of 
events leading up to war and a declaration of inde- 
pendence in the United States. Similarly, the lives 
and experiences of individuals, schools, communi- 
ties, and nations may be used to render accounts 
consistent with and supportive of author intention- 
ality, whatever that may be. Any consideration of 
historical information must attend to at least two 
contexts: history as seen in the present, and history 
as viewed through intent of the author. 

Critical Summary 

Author intentionality may be used to construct or 
buttress favored positions, points, or outcomes of 
research. When such strategies are used, authors 
are advised to clearly identify affiliations or prefer- 
ences that cast arguments in specific directions. 

Autobiography 41 

Otherwise, readers need to use constant vigilance 
to detect underlying leanings that may distort full 
understanding or appreciation of the materials 

Michael Kompf 

See also Audience; Case Selection; Explanatory Case 
Study; Informant Bias; Researcher as Research Tool; 
Theory-Building With Cases; Verstehen 

Further Readings 

Billauer, B. P. (2006). On scientific bias: When the 
reported truth is not the whole truth. Foundation for 
Law and Science Centers, Inc.; Institute of World 
Politics, May 6. Retrieved April 5, 2009, from http:// 
papers, cfm?abstract_id=l 130049 

Bredo, E., & Feinberg, W. (Eds.). (1982). Knowledge and 
values in social and educational research. Philadelphia: 
Temple University Press. 

Dawkins, R. (2006). The god delusion. Boston: 
Houghton Mifflin. 

Harris, W. S., & Calvert, J. H. (2003, Fall). Intelligent 
design: The scientific alternative to evolution. National 
Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, pp. 531-561. 

Kaptchuk, T. J. (2003). Effect of interpretive bias on 
research evidence. British Medical Journal, 326, 
1453-1455. Retrieved April 5, 2009, from http:// 

Mehra, B. (2002, March). Bias in qualitative research: 
Voices from an online classroom. Qualitative Report, 
7(1). Retrieved April 5, 2009, from http://www.nova 

Rushton, J. P. (1995). Race, evolution, and behavior: A 
life history perspective. New Brunswick, NJ: 
Transaction Press. 


In autobiographical case studies, the individual 
who is the subject of the study writes his or her 
own life's account. These accounts are in narrative 
form and include diaries and journals used to 
record the events of one's life and are generally 
written with consideration of a future readership. 
More recently, feminist autobiographical appro- 
aches have expanded the literary tradition of auto- 
biography to include not just written but also 

spoken and visual genres such as interviews and 
family photographs. In expanding and revolution- 
izing what constitutes autobiography, social prac- 
tices that are a part of our everyday life and mark 
the links between the personal and the political 
have been reconstituted as autobiography. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

The canon of Western autobiography, Phil Cohen 
argues, has been historically male centered and has 
featured the life writings of both the elite and self- 
made men. An emancipatory vision and practice 
outside these confines advanced by feminist schol- 
ars, particularly over the past 30 years, has taken 
place alongside postcolonial criticism that has con- 
tributed, as Carolynn Steedman notes, to a shift 
away from a gaze focused solely on the European 
subject toward that of subaltern and marginalized 
subjects, such as the working class, women, and 
people across national and ethnic contexts. 
Similarly, approaches to autobiography have 
undergone scrutiny and critique. They have moved 
from a single emphasis on written literary texts to 
a proliferation of alternative forms of self-narra- 
tion that include written texts, oral narratives (the 
spoken), fictional accounts, curricula vitae (CVs), 
and the visual. 

Tess Cosslett, Celia Lury, and Penny 
Summerfield, the editors of the milestone book 
Feminism and Autobiography: Texts, Theories, 
Methods, feature theoretical advances and research 
methods that include autobiographical case stud- 
ies. They identify the development of feminist 
autobiography in three areas: genre, intersubjec- 
tivity, and memory. 

Genre. Feminist critique of autobiography as a 
literary genre whose beginnings arise from the 
accounts of elite white males is scrutinized for 
its exclusionary practices. The notion of the 
autobiographer as a unified, transcendent white 
subject is questioned. Differences that underscore 
sexuality, nationality, age, class, culture, and race 
are interwoven in feminist autobiographical 

Intersubjectivity. This term refers to the 
examination of the relationship between personal 
narratives and the public realm. This includes the 

42 Autobiography 

examination of how experience is both narratively 
and dialogically organized. Cosslett, Lury, and 
Summerfield argue that knowledge of these 
relationships is central for a nuanced understanding 
regarding the process of composition through 
which a narrative is produced. Feminists use 
interiority because women's narratives are often 
excluded from the public realm. Intersubjectivity 
insists that that self cannot be analyzed as an 
isolated subjecthood, but rather, it must be 
understood in relationship with others — through 
which the self is constituted. 

Memory. Memory involves recovery of the past. 
Further, Cosslett, Lury, and Summerfield highlight 
the importance of the past in relation to a projection 
of the future. Memories are taken up within the 
personal and collective realms and are often conveyed 
through partial, shifting, and contested nuances. 
Further, memory can carry political connotations in 
terms of what is remembered (both the silences and 
gaps) as well as what is forgotten, as Luisa Passerini 
suggests. Of particular importance is the notion that 
memory is not just individual but can also be shared, 
or does not necessarily have a single owner. For 
example, shared memory is exemplified through the 
media or through shared rituals. 


The work of prominent feminist scholars who 
dedicate their research to autobiography, such as 
Liz Stanley, Gwendolyn Etter-Lewis, and others, 
are featured in Cosslett, Lury, and Summerfield. 
Their works provide examples of the three identi- 
fied areas of knowledge in the field of feminist 
autobiography, some of which are briefly high- 
lighted for their clarity in application: 

Genre/Liz Stanley. Stanley's discussion of the 
epistemological significance of auto/biography 
disrupts the perception of autobiography as a 
literary text. She argues that auto/biography 
should not be confined to written texts but is 
a part of everyday practices. The focus on 
epistemological matters provides an analytical 
tool for examining the relationship between the 
individual and social structures. For example, 
Stanley discusses the everyday practice of con- 
structing a CV for a job or for promotion, and the 

act of describing oneself to other people as auto/ 

Intersubjectivity and Memory/Gwendolyn 
Etter-Lewis. Etter-Lewis provides an in-depth 
autobiographical case study of attorney Evva K. 
Heath (between the years 1897 and 1909). She 
examines over 101 letters written by Heath to her 
family (mostly her mother) as a means to build a 
larger autobiographical narrative. Heath (1880- 
1909) was a Howard University School of Law 
graduate in 1904 and was among a small number 
of African American female attorneys who also 
concentrated on women's legal rights. Through 
Heath's case study, Etter-Lewis provides an 
example of how the "self" subjecthood (or 
interiority) can be understood only in relationship 
with others and moreover within exteriority (the 
social structure). Etter-Lewis provides an analysis 
of Heath's "multiple selves" as constantly evolving 
in relation to external issues. 

Consideration of Heath's reader/audience 
(mostly her mother) was also important to Etter- 
Lewis in order to critically examine the letters with 
an eye to interrogate the silences, both what was 
unsaid and what was constituted through social 
political contexts. Heath's everyday accounts cen- 
sored life's sorrows and disappointments. These 
silences reflect the social political contexts in 
which her life's writing was taking place and were 
an outcome of Heath's race and gender within her 
professional class. 

Critical Summary 

Cosslett, Lury, and Summerfield argue that the 
three identified areas reflect the interconnected 
frameworks currently under debate in feminist 
autobiographical studies. As such, both the con- 
ceptual framework and the application of these 
approaches are of central importance to highlight 
in a discussion concerned with autobiography as 
case study, particularly as they relate to develop- 
ments and new trends in the field. 

Dolana Mogadime 

See also Audience; Autoethnography; Liberal Feminism; 
Life History; Multiple Selfing; Narrative Analysis; 
Narratives; Poststructuralist Feminism; Radical 
Feminism; Socialist Feminism 



Further Readings 

Cohen, P. (n.d.). Autobiography and the hidden 

curriculum vitae. The Centre for Narrative Research. 
Retrieved March 24, 2009, from 

Cosslett, T., Lury, C, & Summerfield, P. (Eds.). (2000). 
Feminism and autobiography: Texts, theories, 
methods. London: Routledge. 

Creswell, J. W. (2008). Educational research: Planning, 
conducting and evaluating quantitative and qualitative 
research. Toronto: Pearson. 

Etter-Lewis, G. (2000). Spellbound: Audience, identity 
and self in black women's narrative discourse. In 
T. Cosslett, C. Lury, & P. Summerfield (Eds.), 
Feminism and autobiography: Texts, theories, methods 
(pp. 107-127). London: Routledge. 

Passerini, L. (1989). Women's personal narratives: Myths, 
experiences and emotions. In Personal Narratives 
Group (Ed.), Interpreting women's lives: Feminist 
theory and personal narratives. Bloomington: Indiana 
University Press. 

Stanley, L. (2000). From "self-made women" to 

"women's made-selves"? Audit selves, simulation and 
surveillance in the rise of public woman. In T. 
Cosslett, C. Lury, & P. Summerfield (Eds.), Feminism 
and autobiography: Texts, theories, methods 
(pp. 40-60). London: Routledge. 

Steedman, C. (2000). Enforced narratives: Stories of 

another self. In T. Cosslett, C. Lury, & P. Summerfield 
(Eds.), Feminism and autobiography: Texts, theories, 
methods (pp. 25-39). London: Routledge. 


Autoethnography is a form or method of research 
that involves self-observation and reflexive investi- 
gation in the context of ethnographic field work 
and writing. The term has a double sense, referring 
either to the reflexive consideration of a group to 
which one belongs as a native, member, or partici- 
pant [ethnography of one's own group) or to the 
reflexive accounting of the narrator's subjective 
experience and subjectivity [autobiographical writ- 
ing that has ethnographic interest). This distinc- 
tion can be blurred in some research traditions. 
Autoethnography is sometimes made synonymous 
with self-ethnography, reflexive ethnography, or 
performance ethnography, and can be associated 
with narrative inquiry and autobiography. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

The emergence of autoethnography as method, 
text, or concept was described by Carolyn S. Ellis 
and Arthur P. Bochner, and by Deborah E. 
Reed-Danahay as a manifestation of a recent reflex- 
ive turn in ethnography. Paul Atkinson, Amanda 
Coffey, and Sara Delamont argued that a diversity 
of methods and points of view have characterized 
ethnography since its outset, and the exclusive focus 
of this turn on methodological innovation, change, 
and discontinuity gives a misleading account of the 
field. Nevertheless, anthropology has recently 
shown a widespread and renewed interest in per- 
sonal narrative, life history, and autobiography as a 
result of changing conceptions of self-identity and 
relations between self and society. 

Autoethnography broadly operationalizes three 
different conceptions of self: self as representative 
subject (as a member of a community or group), 
self as autonomous subject (as itself the object of 
inquiry, depicted in "tales of the self"), and other 
as autonomous self (the other as both object and 
subject of inquiry, speaking with his or her own 
voice). It displays three main intersecting qualita- 
tive research traditions: analytic, subjectivist expe- 
riential, and poststructuralist/postmodern. 

Analytic autoethnography is a subgenre of ana- 
lytic ethnography as practiced from realist or sym- 
bolic interactionist traditions. Here a researcher is 
personally engaged in a social group, setting, or 
culture as a full member and active participant but 
retains a distinct and highly visible identity as a 
self-aware scholar and social actor within the eth- 
nographic text. Analytic autoethnography differs 
from analytical ethnography by its increased inter- 
rogation of the relationships between self and oth- 
ers and a developed awareness of reciprocal 
influences between ethnographers, their settings, 
and informants. Researchers' own feelings and 
experiences are included in the ethnographic nar- 
rative, made visible and regarded as important 
data for understanding the social world observed, 
yielding both self- and social knowledge. 

Systematic, self-conscious introspection enables 
the disciplined analysis of personal resonance and 
the effects of the researchers' connection with the 
research situation on their actions and interpreta- 
tions, in dialogue with the representations of oth- 
ers. Researchers are in a paradoxical position in 

44 Autoethnography 

the field: simultaneously insiders of the studied 
community and outsiders, members of another 
(academic) community, representing the "ulti- 
mate" participant in this dual role. Analytic auto- 
ethnography thereby reaffirms the distinctions 
between researchers and informants, observers 
and observed, or self and culturally different other 
prevalent in classical ethnography. It is also com- 
mitted to an analytic agenda: Developing theoreti- 
cal understanding of broader social phenomena, 
grounded in self-experience, analytic autoethnog- 
raphy remains framed by empirical data and aims 
to generalize its insights to a wider field of social 
relations than the data alone contain. 

Subjectivist experiential autoethnographic writ- 
ing aims to account for the subjective density of 
ethnographic field work, often in an expressive, 
emotional, and existential way. Concrete action, 
emotion, embodiment, self-consciousness, and 
introspection shape interpretive tales of the self 
where the narrators' subjective experience is the 
central focus of the ethnography. These tales are 
ideographic case studies or life stories narrating the 
subjective meanings and human texture of lived 
experience, usually as first-person narratives by a 
common or ordinary member of a group or com- 
munity. Subjective experiential autoethnography 
investigates subjectivity as a distinct phenomenon in 
all its emotional, cognitive, and behavioral density. 

Personal stories are not a means to an end, as in 
the analytic tradition, but singular expressions of 
human life that fill and shape the text. Here the 
connection of the autobiographical and personal to 
the cultural and social through thick description 
has no explicit analytic commitment to generaliza- 
tion, though revealing situated cultural influences 
and broader social relevance. Subjectivist experien- 
tial autoethnography often conveys a specific 
standpoint or voice accounting for emotional and 
embodied experience of illness or discrimination, 
as in healthcare and feminist research. It is often 
used critically as a political means of expressing the 
repressed voices of minorities and communities. 

Postmodern/poststructuralist autoethnography 
is a blurred genre of methodological creative prac- 
tices, texts, and autobiographical performances 
that turn inward and are waiting to be staged. 
These contribute to remaking self and identity as a 
site for the negotiation of social, cultural, and 
political dialogue, often in a carnivalesque form. 

Autoethnography is here mostly evocative rather 
than expressive, and its relevance is accomplished 
through a balancing act: Aesthetic concerns are 
balanced with the sharing of experience, the frag- 
menting effects of dialogues based on identity, and 
the need to connect local action to larger social 
and even global contexts, spaces, and locations. 
Social and cultural artifacts can be used as forms 
of autoethnography as they provide a form of self- 
reference for the members of a particular region or 
community. Traditional ethnography sees its task 
as the description, inscription, and interpretation 
of culture, but from a postmodern perspective the 
professional ethnographer becomes redundant 
because everyday practices are increasingly per- 
vaded by impulses for self-documentation and the 
reproduction of images of the self. The radical 
dissolution of the ethnographic "I" and eye blurs 
distinctions between ethnographic representations 
of others (ethnography) and those others' self- 
representations (autoethnography). 


Autoethnography can take varied forms and 
genres. In anthropology, it is at the intersection of 
three genres of writing: (1) native anthropology 
("people who were formerly the subjects of eth- 
nography become the authors of studies of their 
own group"); (2) ethnic autobiography ("personal 
narratives written by members of ethnic minority 
groups"); and (3) autobiographical ethnography 
(where "anthropologists interject personal experi- 
ence into ethnographic writing") (Reed-Danahay, 
1997, p. 2). 

In native or insider anthropology, autoethnogra- 
phy is carried out in the social context that pro- 
duced it. Its emphasis is not on life story but on the 
ethnography of one's culture, as with analytic auto- 
ethnography. Confessional tales or partial autobio- 
graphical accounts have also long been used in 
analytic ethnographic field work to supplement 
ethnographic narration and provide the readers 
with details that unveil how field work was con- 
cretely performed, often presented separately from 
the main ethnographic narrative. Autobiographical 
vignettes can also enhance the subjectivity and live- 
liness of ethnographic discourse. 

Autobiographical ethnography, including eth- 
nic or indigenous autobiography, presents native 



life stories having ethnographic interest as life tra- 
jectories, and identities are set in their social, cul- 
tural, and historical contexts. Using different 
written genres and methods, ethnography and 
autobiography are blended into new hybrids: wit- 
ness narratives in cases of social violence and 
repression; private folk ethnography in households 
and specific collective settings; and testimonies of 
daily life in captivity, total institutions, armed con- 
flicts, or self-reflection on symbolic violence. 

Narrative inquiry can provoke identification, 
feelings, emotions, and dialogue. The development 
of experiential and postmodern autoethnography 
has expanded the range of cultural artifacts and 
textual projects used to document subjective and 
creative flows of human life. It also blurs boundar- 
ies between insider/outsider, subject/object, and 
ethnographic versus literary genres. Films, diaries, 
calendars, or children's fiction are now used cre- 
atively in addition to autobiography to explore 
subjectivity and lived experience. Polyvocal texts 
offer space for expression and evocation of a plu- 
rality of voices while responsive reading, reader's 
theater, or conversations can incorporate direct 
dialogue. Performance autoethnography engages 
with creative nonfiction poems, short stories, 
memoirs, comedy or satire, conversations, and 
dances as fields of inquiry. 

Critical Summary 

Early criticism of autobiographical methods in 
anthropology questioned their validity on grounds 
of being unrepresentative and lacking objectivity. 
Recent critiques of evocative and emotional genres 
of autoethnography have mostly emphasized their 
lack of ethnographic relevance as a result of being 
too personal. The elevation of autobiography in 
personal accounts to the status of ethnographic 
enhancement, on the grounds of its evocative 
power or experiential value, has been criticized by 
analytic proponents for being biased, navel-gazing, 
self-absorbed, or emotionally incontinent, and for 

hijacking traditional ethnographic purposes and 
scholarly contributions. The proliferation of meth- 
odological creativity in ethnographic writing has 
also been presented as a self-referential sphere of 
discourse disconnected from practice. 

Nevertheless, such critiques should be relocated 
in a broader reflection on and discussion of the 
scope, purposes, and forms of ethnographic work 
itself. Evocative and emotional autoethnography 
promotes the ethnographic project as a relational 
commitment to studying the ordinary practices of 
human life, which involves engaged self-participa- 
tion, makes sense in the context of lived experi- 
ence, and contributes to social criticism. Analytical 
autoethnography finds it necessary to look out- 
ward at distinct others in order to generate mean- 
ingful social analysis. 

Garance Marecbal 

See also Autobiography; Ethnography; Poststructuralism; 

Further Readings 

Anderson, L. (2006). Analytic autoethnography. Journal 

of Contemporary Ethnography, 35(4), 373-395. 
Atkinson, P., Coffey, A., & Delamont, S. (1999). 

Ethnography: Post, past and present. Journal of 

Contemporary Ethnography, 28(5), 460-471. 
Bochner, A. P., & Ellis, C. (1999). Which way to turn? 

Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 28(5), 

Denzin, N. (2006). Analytic autoethnography, or deja vu 

all over again. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 

35(4), 419-428. 
Ellis, C. (2004). The ethnographic I: A methodological 

novel about autoethnography. Lanham, MD: Altamira 

Ellis, C, & Flaherty, M. G. (1992). Investigating 

subjectivity: Research on lived experience. 

London: Sage. 
Reed-Danahay, D. E. (1997). Auto/ethnography: 

Rewriting the self and the social. Oxford, UK: Berg. 

Base and Superstructure 

One of the main tenets of Marx's historical mate- 
rialism is that societies consist of two main parts: 
the economic base and the political-cultural super- 
structure. The base is a society's mode of produc- 
tion — its economy and its social classes; the 
superstructure is everything else, including poli- 
tics, family, law, and religion. The building meta- 
phor of base and superstructure is used to convey 
the notion that the visible parts of the building, 
namely politics and culture, are constructed on a 
more fundamental and important economic foun- 
dation. According to the base-superstructure idea, 
all case study research should aim to identify the 
economic and class preconditions of whatever 
phenomenon is being studied. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

The origins of the idea were partly philosophical 
and partly political. Philosophically, Marx was 
hostile to idealism and he affirmed materialism. 
Politically, Marx dismissed rival forms of socialist 
thought on the grounds that the road to commu- 
nism required not a moral conversion in the mind 
(the ideological superstructure); nor would politi- 
cal change suffice (the political superstructure); 
instead a socioeconomic revolution in the material 
conditions of life and in class relations (the base) 
was needed. 

Marx used the term itself when summarizing the 
materialist conception of history in his "Preface" to 

A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy 
in 1859. He describes the mode of production as 
the real foundation upon which arises a legal and 
political superstructure as well as forms of social 
consciousness. Social, political, and intellectual life 
are conditioned by the mode of production. 

The metaphor contains three main ideas. First, 
there is the assumption that society is like a build- 
ing. Part of the assumption is that society is built 
or constructed, as opposed to having evolved or 
grown. Part also is that, like a building, a society is 
composed of levels such as a basement and upper 
stories. Yet the likening of societies to buildings did 
not go unquestioned by critics. Critics charged that 
societies are not akin to buildings; they are not 
constructed out of raw materials but instead are 
composed of specifically human activities; they are 
far more complex than buildings; they cannot eas- 
ily be torn down and rebuilt to new plans. 

Second, there is the implication that what hap- 
pens in the economic realm is hidden or taken for 
granted as is a building's underground substructure. 
The base-superstructure image is in this way simi- 
lar to the image of a passenger ship in which the 
privileged in the upper salons are insulated from 
the harsh conditions of the stokers in the engine 

Third, there is the thesis that the economic forces 
and relations of production are more important, 
influential, and fundamental than any other aspect 
of life because they are the bases or preconditions of 
every other social activity. Marxism split into two 
tendencies on this point. One tendency, sometimes 
referred to as "vulgar" or "determinist" Marxism, 



Base and Superstructure 

held that the forces of production and class rela- 
tions directly control the rest of society. All else is 
an epiphenomenon. The other tendency, associated 
primarily with Antonio Gramsci, granted relative 
autonomy to politics and culture while endorsing 
economic determination in the final instance. 


Among the most important areas of application of 
the base-superstructure idea have been studies of 
(a) the preconditions of social institutions; (b) the 
theory of history; and (c) the preconditions of 

Preconditions of Social Institutions 

One realm of application concerns the bases of 
social institutions. Some of the most notable ideas 
from the history of Marxist thought are in essence 
applications of the base-superstructure notion. 
These include the claims that ancient Greek democ- 
racy rested upon slavery; that late 19th-century 
European imperialism arose from a new stage of 
capitalism; that World War I was caused by eco- 
nomic imperialism; that the institution of the free 
market has as its precondition class division; or that 
political democracy is a sham in a class-divided 
world. But critics argue that social institutions also 
have other noneconomic preconditions. Social insti- 
tutions also depend upon cultural supports or mili- 
tary security. Critics also state that notwithstanding 
their economic preconditions, social institutions 
also have emergent properties of their own. 

In the Marxian view, the preconditions of revo- 
lutions are to be found in the base: economic crisis 
and sharpened class struggle. But Theda Skocpol's 
case studies of the French, Chinese, and Russian 
revolutions challenged this notion. The main condi- 
tion of revolution arose as much in the superstruc- 
ture as in the base: State breakdown due to military 
defeat, fiscal crisis, and divisions among the elite 
were the main sources of those revolutions. 

Theory of History 

A second realm of application is the theory of 
history. Although the base-superstructure metaphor 
gives a static image of a building at rest, Marx's 
materialism was explicitly historical: Marx called 

his approach the materialism conception of history, 
later shortened to historical materialism. It is a 
dynamic theory of history in motion. According to 
Marx's theory of history, the basic entities of history 
are not states or civilizations, but modes of produc- 
tion. History is the history of successive modes of 
production from antiquity through feudalism to 
capitalism to future communism. The sources of 
historical change arise from the mode of produc- 
tion: Change comes partly from the effects of 
advancing forces of production and partly from the 
struggle between classes. The overall direction of 
history is a progression from inferior to improved 
modes of production culminating in the best possi- 
ble mode: communism. 

This is to be contrasted with other ideas of the 
shape of history. One idea is that history comprises 
three economic epochs: the foraging (or hunting 
and gathering) age, the agrarian age, and the mod- 
ern industrial age. (This approach differs from 
Marxism in disputing the importance of social 
classes.) Another idea is that cultures, civilizations, 
religious movements, or ideologies form history's 
main entities and sources of change. A third is the 
view that warfare is the main influence on history. 
A fourth is that the main entities of history are 
political and geopolitical (regimes, states, systems of 
states, and empires) while the main source of change 
in history is the struggle for political power. 

In contrast to all the above, a further idea of 
history is multidimensional. This is the kind of 
approach associated with Max Weber as opposed 
to Karl Marx. Multidimensional approaches come 
in various forms. One would regard each type of 
human activity as equally influential in shaping 
history. An alternative would regard the main 
influences as varying between different eras: in 
some periods, economic primacy; in other periods, 
military primacy; in others, cultural. 

Preconditions of Communism 

Marxism claimed to be able not only to inter- 
pret the world but also to change the world by 
revealing the preconditions for achieving commu- 
nism. This third realm of application has led to 
intense controversy. 

The base-superstructure idea aims to offer a 
guide to how to achieve communism. It advises 
those who would change history to act not in 

Bayesian Inference and Boolean Logic 


political institutions or in terms of ideas, but 
instead at the level of economic development and 
at class relations that together form the prevailing 
mode of production. The key to achieving com- 
munism is to transform the base by advancing the 
forces of production and abolishing classes through 
the victory of the working class. Both were to be 
achieved through planning and state control of the 
economy. For some time it seemed to many that 
Marxism had successfully identified the precondi- 
tion of communism. Communist parties across the 
world were devoted to implementing the formula 
of transforming the economic base. 

Critics make several points. One criticism is that 
the base-superstructure idea in Marxist theory con- 
tributed to the disastrous lack of democracy in com- 
munist practice. Marxist theory was in principle in 
favor of democracy. But, at the same time, Marxist 
theory relegated democracy to an epiphenomenal or 
superficial position within the superstructure. The 
criticism is that the base-superstructure image, by 
demoting democracy to a secondary position in its 
theoretical picture of a society, encouraged commu- 
nist movements to regard democracy as unimport- 
ant. Another criticism is that transforming the base 
is not the precondition of achieving communism. 
Critics of Marxism charge that there are no such 
preconditions because achieving communism is a 
Utopian fantasy. Ideas such as the base-superstruc- 
ture notion that purport to reveal the preconditions 
of communism are therefore fatally flawed. 

Critical Summary 

The idea that case study research should consider 
how economic circumstances, among other things, 
influence the phenomena under study is uncontro- 
versial. But the idea that case study research should 
primarily aim to reveal the economic and class pre- 
conditions of its subject matter is deeply contested. 

Martin Hewson 

See also Class Analysis; Critical Theory; Dialectical 
Materialism; Historical Materialism; Means of 
Production; Modes of Production 

Further Readings 

Gramsci, A. (1971). Selections from the prison 
notebooks. London: Lawrence and Wishart. 

Marx, K. (1977). Preface. In A contribution to the 
critique of political economy. Moscow: Progress 
Publishers. (Original work published 1859) 

Skocpol, T. (1979). States and social revolutions: A 
comparative analysis of France, Russia, and China. 
Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 

Weber, M. (1968). Economy and society. New York: 
Bedminster Press. (Original work published 1922) 

Bayesian Inference 
and Boolean Logic 

Bayesian inference and Boolean logic are logical- 
mathematical approaches to inquiry that contrib- 
ute to the construction of sound case studies. That 
is, they constitute applications of formal logic and 
statistical reasoning that may enhance case study 

Conceptual Overview of Bayesian Inference 

Bayesian inference is an approach to the interpreta- 
tion of statistical evidence inspired by the contribu- 
tions of 18th-century statistical theorist Thomas 
Bayes. It is based on the concept of conditional 
probability, in which one recalculates the likelihood 
of an event based on new evidence, as codified in 
Bayes's theorem. Bayesian inference introduces the 
concept of the "degree of belief," emerging through 
an iterative process, in which successive exercises 
generate new understandings of reality. It is to be 
distinguished from traditional hypothesis testing 
with null hypotheses, Type I and Type II errors, 
confidence intervals, and critical values. 

Bayesian inference produces a conception of 
the "state of knowledge" at a given moment. The 
researcher posits prior probabilities, perhaps based 
on his or her own intuition or on a broader con- 
sensus, and these are taken into account as an 
experiment or study produces posterior probabili- 
ties. Posterior probabilities represent revised assess- 
ments as determined by subsequent analysis. 

Following the Bayesian theorem, posterior prob- 
abilities can be calculated according to the follow- 
ing formula: 

P(HIE) = P(ElH)P(H)/P(E). 


Bayesian Inference and Boolean Logic 

P(HIE) is the posterior probability that Hypothesis 
H is true given that Evidence E has emerged. P(H) 
is the prior probability that H is true, as assessed 
before the arrival of Evidence E. P(EIH) is the 
probability Evidence E would arise given the truth 
of Hypothesis H. P(E) is the probability of E occur- 
ring regardless of the correct hypothesis. 

Many critics regard Bayesian analysis as neces- 
sarily subjectivist, in that inquiry begins with the 
researcher's initial judgments (which may be char- 
acterized as "biased") and continues to be guided 
by the researcher's belief. On the other hand, sub- 
sequent iterations of analysis may suppress initial 
biases and introduce grounds for broad credibility. 
A minority of critics find Bayesian inference con- 
sistent with objectivity and Aristotelian logic, and 
interest in Bayesian approaches is increasing. 

Bayesian inference is quite useful in combina- 
tion with case study analysis. That is, the researcher 
may consider statistical evidence, make an infer- 
ence along with an assessment of degree of belief, 
and then incorporate case analysis, which either 
reinforces or weakens earlier judgments. Bayesian 
analysis provides a justification for the integration 
of multiple methodologies in a single project. 

Consider, for example, the effective use of poll- 
ing in political research. The point estimate of sup- 
port for candidate or party is of limited value in 
and of itself. A Bayesian approach builds an analy- 
sis conditioned by the estimate but refined through 
the analysis of rally size, polling place lines, and 
other factors. Projections of United States presi- 
dential elections necessarily combine state-level 
predictions and the consideration of electoral col- 
lege scenarios ensuing from them. 

Conceptual Overview of Boolean Logic 

Boolean logic is a system for performing logical 
operations in the analysis of sets, or groups, of 
numbers, objects, or events. It is the foundation of 
database search engines and the basis of computer 
information processing. It incorporates the logical 
operators AND and OR, which are equivalent to 
union and intersection in symbolic logic. These 
operators render large databases more manageable; 
for example, multiple search terms can identify rel- 
evant articles from an extensive library of journals. 
Boolean logic can be applied in the analysis of 
organizational states construed as sets. One can 

explore relationships among the underlying factors 
determining membership in sets, even if these fac- 
tors are qualitative in nature. Venn diagrams pro- 
vide graphic representations of these relationships, 
revealing intersections and complementarity, and 
truth tables list propositions about the relation- 
ships. Boolean logic may be particularly helpful in 
considering organizational processes characterized 
by equifinality, where multiple paths lead to the 
same end states. 

Boolean logic might be applied in comparative 
studies of organizational performance, whether 
with regard to financial performance, social respon- 
sibility, or some other dimension. Case studies 
provide the raw information. The objective would 
be to illuminate the various paths through which 
organizational configurations result in the perfor- 
mance in question. Sets are constructed grouping 
enterprises that qualify on each of the relevant 
variables. Venn diagrams illustrate relations among 
the sets. Logical statements utilizing the Boolean 
operators define potential configurations, and 
these may be arranged as a truth table to distin- 
guish paths to favorable and unfavorable out- 
comes. Recent studies of high-performance work 
organizations identify diverse bundles of human 
resource practices that are associated with improved 
quality and implicitly employ a set-theoretic 

Critical Summary 

Both Bayesian and Boolean logic provide means to 
construct rigorous and powerful analyses from the 
building blocks of case study. However, some crit- 
ics continue to argue that Bayesian approaches are 
inherently arbitrary and subjective. Boolean logic 
remains somewhat obscure in social science 
research despite its particular value in the consid- 
eration of case studies. 

David Carroll Jacobs 

See also Equifinality; Probabilistic Explanation; 

Further Readings 

Caramani, D. (2009). Introduction to the comparative 
method with Boolean algebra. Thousand Oaks, 
CA: Sage. 

Before-and-After Case Study Design 


Fiss, P. (2007). A set-theoretic approach to organizational 

configurations. Academy of Management Review, 

32(4), 1180-1198. 
Gill, J. (2002). Bayesian methods: A social and 

behavioral sciences approach. Boca Raton, FL: 

Chapman & Hall/CRC. 
Grover, M., & Anderson, R., Jr. (1975). Induction, 

probability, and confirmation. Minneapolis: University 

of Minnesota Press. 

Case Study Design 

A before-and-after case study describes a single 
example of a phenomenon or experience involving 
individual, group, institutional, or social responses 
before and after an event of interest. Completion 
of a before-and-after case study could do some or 
all of the following: deepen the understanding of 
aspects of the before period of the case study; 
identify the pivotal event(s); and clarify the changes 
in the after period. Outcomes of such a study 
could include theories on the impacts of the events, 
related change efforts, or future interventions. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Case study research has been useful in answering 
how and why questions from real-life contexts, 
often in professional practice areas such as educa- 
tion, human services, leadership development, and 
management. The multiple data sources of the case 
study from the first period of the research may 
stand alone, or become the basis for learning about 
the impact of some pivotal events, and involve a 
second period of data collection. This second phase 
of data collection, after some event(s) of interest, is 
the marker of a before-and-after case study. Before- 
and-after case studies provide the opportunity to 
(a) analyze complex case data, (b) see pivotal 
events or relationships among the factors affecting 
the dynamics under study, and (c) gather further 
data to examine those affects or changes. 

The protocol for case study research design sug- 
gested by Robert Yin includes (a) an overview of 
case study and the research questions, topics, and 
issues; (b) nomination screening and data collection 
procedures in the field; (c) schedule and deadlines 

for case studies from preparation, through site vis- 
its, follow-up, analysis, report preparation, and site 
review of report draft; (d) update of protocol related 
to literature, hypothetical logic model update (if 
used), topics, and data collection; and (e) case study 
report format. In addition, a before-and-after case 
study includes the pivotal event, and the compo- 
nents of design in the second part of the case. These 
second section components may include chrono- 
logical analysis, continuity or changing of evidence 
sources, prediction of causal factors and subsequent 
verification, alternative explanations, new theoreti- 
cal propositions, new descriptions following the 
pivotal event, and changing rival explanations. 

Norman Denzin and Yvonna Lincoln suggest 
"conceptual responsibilities" in research design 
that include (a) the case boundaries around the 
object of study; (b) research question emphasis on 
which themes, issues, and phenomenon; (c) devel- 
oping the issues through the patterns seen in the 
data; (d) triangulating data for important observa- 
tions and interpretations; (e) including alternative 
interpretations; and (f) developing generalizations. 
Case studies may be strengthened by research 
designs with multiple sources of evidence such as 
interviews, real objects, archived documentation, 
recorded observations, and participant observa- 
tions. Current technologies add many possible 
tools and sources. A before-and-after case study 
design would include the differences in data collec- 
tion sources in the before time period, during the 
pivotal event, and in the after-event time period. 
Similarly, the analysis strategy and analytic tech- 
niques used need to be described for each time 
period. For example, an initial theoretical proposi- 
tion with rival explanations included may have 
time series analysis added to the second part of the 
case study after the pivotal event. The purpose of 
the chronology could be to increase the relation- 
ships between patterns in the initial part of the case 
study and variables introduced by the pivotal 
event. The use of chronologies and pattern match- 
ing could assist with comparisons when research 
designs were different in the before and the after 
case descriptions. 

One case study or multiple case studies can be 
included in a before-and-after strategy. Different 
protocol variables would be described. For exam- 
ple, validity and reliability concepts in data collec- 
tion and analysis of case studies require different 


Before-and-After Case Study Design 

tactics in different research designs. The traditional 
concepts of validity (internal, external, and con- 
struct concept measurement), and reliability (degree 
to which the study could be replicated) are concep- 
tually important in study design. For example, Yin 
suggests theory in single case studies, and replica- 
tion logic in multiple case studies to test external 
validity (or generalizability parameters). A concep- 
tual alternative to validity and reliability appears 
in Thomas Schwandt's describing authenticity or 
trustworthiness criteria developed by Yvonna 
Lincoln and Egon Guba for qualitative studies. 
Included in this alternative criteria are ontological 
authenticity (enhancement of participants' con- 
structions), fairness (balanced representation of 
respondents' constructions), educative authenticity 
(shared understandings of others' constructions), 
and catalytic authenticity (stimulation to action). 

In the academic context, the before-and-after 
case study has a direct connection with qualitative 
and quantitative methodologies. Case study meth- 
odology choices vary with the questions and pur- 
pose of the study. Common elements would be 
development of research questions; method for 
choosing participants; informed consent; descrip- 
tion of the parameters of the study, including ethi- 
cal considerations, phenomenon, and context; data 
collection; data analysis; and a case study report. 


An example of choosing methodology in one study 
on effective cross-cultural teachers' multicultural 
frameworks was the use of James Spradley's 
12-step ethnographic interview sequence. The 
interview sequence provided direction in steps to 
identify participants; ask descriptive, structural, 
and componential questions; analyze the inter- 
views in domain, taxonomic, and cultural aspects; 
and write the narrative. Spradley's ethnographic 
methodology corresponded with questions of the 
study: (a) what are the backgrounds of effective 
cross-cultural teachers? (b) What are the teaching 
frameworks of effective multicultural teachers? (c) 
Can teachers describe their cultural teaching frame- 
works? The initial participant was both an excep- 
tionally successful teacher recommended by her 
principal, student teachers, parents, and university 
partners, and also very articulate on all three ques- 
tions. In this research the data complexity before 

led to consideration of further interviews. The 
impacts of a pivotal event in education (implemen- 
tation of the No Child Left Behind, or NCLB, leg- 
islation) had dramatically impacted U.S. teachers' 
views on classroom work. Public Law 107-110 
(NCLB) was proposed by then-President George 
W. Bush, and signed into law on January 8, 2002. 
Main provisions of the law, according to the 
California Department of Education, include stan- 
dardized testing to measure "adequate yearly prog- 
ress," complex regulations for "highly qualified 
teachers," and mandated consequences for under- 
performing schools. The willingness of the case 
study teacher to participate in further interviews 
led to an after period of data collection in 2006. 

The before of the case studies was teacher 
frameworks prior to the legislation in 2001, the 
legislation and policies and practices from the law 
were the pivotal events, and the after was teacher 
frameworks in 2006 — after 5 years of NCLB 
implementation in schools. In the example 
described, detailed ethnographic methodology was 
used to develop the before part of the case study. 
Six years later, the methodology chosen for the 
after part of the study was institutional ethno- 
graphic tools, as it was institutional dynamics that 
had most strongly impacted the experiences of the 
teachers in 2006. The choices of which methodolo- 
gies to use (after the case study form or strategy for 
data collection and analysis is decided) depend on 
the research questions and purpose. In the cross- 
cultural teacher example, a culturally descriptive 
and specific method was needed for the first period 
of data collection in three specific areas related to 
acculturation (teacher background) and a cultural 
practice (teaching). Six years later, an institution- 
ally responsive inquiry method was needed to 
describe the institutional changes and their impact 
on teachers' experiences. 

The researcher had not imagined or planned 
the pivotal events (federal NCLB legislation) that 
impacted every school in the United States. However, 
having studied a case of an exceptional cross- 
cultural teacher done in 1999-2001, the idea of 
looking at the impact of the NCLB legislation with 
an experienced and articulate teacher, already on 
record, was a chance to document what many 
teachers in the school districts around the researcher 
were discussing in parking lots and over coffee. The 
before-and-after case study presentation provided a 

Before-and-After Case Study Design 


way to impact a teacher education program dealing 
with those changes. In other examples the events of 
interest may be historic, concurrent, or a part of 
the study. 

Methodologies after the data collection choice 
for a case study is made vary from the detailed 
structure of multiple stage taxonomies in the data 
collection and analysis of Spradley's classic ethno- 
graphic interview sequence, to less structured meth- 
ods; for example, using coding categories in a 
straightforward reporting of evidence. Yin lists evi- 
dence sources for case studies as documentation, 
archival records, interviews, direct observation, 
participant observation, and physical artifacts. 
Once the data from these sources are analyzed, 
theory building may result — and include all three 
periods, or focus on the before period, the pivotal 
events, or the after period. For example, in the 
teacher multicultural framework study, all three 
periods were included and resulted in a picture of 
the impact of NCLB on one very effective teacher 
who was taking steps to leave the profession 6 years 
after the before part of the study when she was fully 
engaged in complex cross-cultural learning strate- 
gies. A theory of dominant culture backlash to 
multicultural education successes was included in a 
presentation to a School of Education faculty and 
precipitated development of a doctoral program for 
leadership in this area. Decision makers may use 
before-and-after cases to discover the impacts of 
pivotal events, to increase successful interventions, 
to formulate theory to test in practice, and so on. 

Critical Summary 

Before-and-after case studies are particularly use- 
ful for understanding specific contexts where the 
how and why of behavior are important, the con- 
text impacts the behavior, and there are pivotal 
events impacting people. The pivotal events may 
be theorized, part of historic records, an institu- 
tional or social dynamic, planned or unplanned. 
Before-and-after case studies can also direct 
research into new avenues of study on old issues. 
One example of this redirection was the resiliency 
case study research of the 1990s that focused on 
the factors enabling some students to be successful 
in circumstances where other students were leav- 
ing school and encountering multiple developmen- 
tal challenges. The cases describing factors in 

student success assisted educators in building in 
more of those factors for students in their high 
schools. Numerical data may be clear, as in the 
case of Los Angeles high school dropout rates, but 
the many factors involved in the how and why of 
dropping out were not clear. Both before and after 
graduation there were pivotal events impacting 
whether the cases (students) left or stayed in high 
school. Before-and-after dropping out studies 
helped identify those events. 

A limitation involved in before-and-after case 
studies is the additional time in extending data col- 
lection with the after period. The ethical consider- 
ations can also be daunting. One example from the 
multicultural teacher framework study was the 
impact of participants seeing clearly the factors in 
their lives that are impacting them, which required 
thoughtful follow up from the researcher. However, 
the time is well spent when an important area of 
study is seeing little progress, such as minority stu- 
dent success in Los Angeles high schools, or 
Canadian Indigenous student's graduation rates 
from secondary programs. 

An exemplary before-and-after case study, 
according to Yin, would make a significant contri- 
bution to the field, be complete in studying the 
phenomenon and the context, offer a collection of 
extensive and relevant evidence, include the con- 
sideration of alternative perspectives, and be writ- 
ten in an engaging manner. 

Verna L. McDonald 

See also Comparative Case Study; Cultural Sensitivity and 
Case Study; Ethics; Ethnography; Longitudinal 
Research; Pattern Matching; Theory-Building With 
Cases; Validity 

Further Readings 

California Department of Education, (n.d.). No child left 

behind. Retrieved February 14, 2009, from http:// 
Denzin, N., & Lincoln, S. (Eds.). (2008). Strategies of 

qualitative inquiry. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 
Merriam, S. (1998). Qualitative research and case study 

applications in education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 
Schwandt, T. (1997). Qualitative inquiry: A dictionary of 

terms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 
Spradley, J. (1979). The ethnographic interview. Fort 

Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College. 

54 Blended Research Design 

Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: Design and 
methods (4th ed.)- Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Blended Research Design 

Blended research design refers to a research 
approach that consciously mixes research meth- 
ods in an effort to get a quality and breadth of 
information that reflects the complexity of the set- 
ting being studied. 

Using the history of technological case studies 
as an example, the following entry describes the 
progression toward a blended research design that 
includes both qualitative and quantitative compo- 
nents in the case study approach. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

The early history of pedagogical research sur- 
rounding technology is best summarized in the 
meta-analyses done by Chen-Lin Kulik and A. 
James Kulik. Their studies concluded that comput- 
er-based learning approaches show potential for 
improving student achievement, saving student and 
teacher time, and improving student attitude toward 
specific types of schooling. The earliest computer 
impact work related dependent and independent 
variables in decidedly positivist research frame- 
works. The computer was often regarded as the 
independent variable; dependent variables included 
final test scores, scores on standardized achieve- 
ment tests, as well as such things as attitude mea- 
sures of content and schooling in general. 

Those strictly quantitative studies of comparing 
computer-based learning with non-computer-based 
learning have more recently been replaced with a 
trend toward understanding the nature of students' 
interactions with computer technologies. Neil 
Selwyn posits that the overreliance on quantitative 
descriptive methodologies provides a limited per- 
spective, while qualitative and ethnographic stud- 
ies have the potential to better describe what 
actually happens in real classrooms, including the 
changing role for teachers. 

The research on the impact of computer tech- 
nology on classrooms requires an interpretative 
lens due to the complex nature of classrooms. 
There are simply too many variables to suggest 

direct cause-and-effect relationships in experimen- 
tal studies. Not only do the computer and user 
exert reciprocal influences on each other, but the 
social construction of knowledge through coopera- 
tive learning in these settings involves a sophisti- 
cated interaction that invokes notions of symbolic 
interactionism. The nuances regarding the nature 
of the learning environment require specific 
research methodologies that blend both quantita- 
tive indicators and qualitative introspection. 
Quantitative surveys of students and teachers 
allow the researcher to identify trends, whereas 
qualitative interviews and focus groups unearth 
the "reasons" for the trends. Qualitative feedback 
offers windows of understanding and invokes new 
questions that would never be evident in statistical 
analysis of surveys. The quantitative data point the 
researcher in the right direction with respect to 
what questions should be asked, and the qualita- 
tive feedback enriches the understanding of the 
system through an emergent process of iterative 

Progressive research design on particular cases 
of technology integration in classrooms has the 
potential to allow identification of new learning 
modes empowered by technology. Case study 
research has an important role in responding to 
emerging research typologies. Significant research 
guidance has been provided by Margaret Roblyer, 
who has suggested four distinct types of pedagogi- 
cal research with respect to technology, namely: 
Type 1 — research to establish relative advantages 
of technology-based strategies; Type 2 — research 
to improve implementation strategies; Type 3 — 
research to monitor impact on important societal 
goals; and Type 4 — studies that monitor and report 
on common uses and shape desired directions. 


The underlying premise and strength of the blend- 
ed-design case study is that many sources of feed- 
back are triangulated to yield an understanding of 
the nature of the learning environment as impacted 
by the technology. 

The case study of technology integration neces- 
sarily involves ongoing field notes describing in 
detail the classroom experience. Typically, teachers 
and researchers work together as participant 
observers within an interpretivist philosophical 

Bounding the Case 


framework. Following the implementation stage, 
surveys (composed of Likert scales) are designed, 
field-tested for ambiguity, revised, and then admin- 
istered to students. A compilation of the survey 
data, complete with standard deviation measures, 
potentially yields statistically significant indica- 
tions of emergent trends. 

Based on the survey data, semistructured open- 
ended interviews are designed and field tested for 
ambiguity (Michael Patton). Using the revised 
interview schedule, a random sample of students is 
invited to participate in 30- to 60-minute inter- 
views that are audiotaped and later transcribed. An 
iterative thematic analysis is done through coding 
of the transcripts (Miles & Huberman). Results are 
shared with a colleague in a peer debriefing session 
in an effort to corroborate research findings. An 
interview with the instructor is audiotaped and 
transcribed as a means of further reflecting on the 
aforementioned research data. The overall qualita- 
tive feedback is again compared to the survey data 
to ensure consistency of findings. A member check 
(Guba &c Lincoln) with the students is achieved 
through several focus groups. In these sessions the 
researcher compares the accumulated research 
findings with the perceptions of the larger group in 
an effort to uncover misconceptions or misunder- 
standings or to clarify interview dynamics that may 
have impacted researcher perceptions. Finally, the 
research lens is carefully considered in order to 
ensure that the qualitative data are truly emergent 
and not predetermined in any way. 

Ideally, the findings of technology case studies 
as described above are most useful to the instructor 
in terms of promoting more effective instruction 
while yielding generalizable classroom strategies. 
Although many research typologies share poten- 
tial, the technology case study offers a unique 
descriptive account of the impact on pedagogies. 

Critical Summary 

The blended research design attempts to combine 
the most informative aspects of qualitative and 
quantitative case study data. Triangulating a range 
of indicators from a study seems a most logical 
notion, yet the approach is not without critics. 

The use of case study for studying technology in 
classrooms has come under some criticism because 
of a perceived lack of generalizability. This opinion 

has been countered by a marked improvement in 
the "verisimilitude" of setting descriptions. By 
being provided a rich description of the learning 
environment, readers get a palpable sense of the 
nature of the learning atmosphere and therefore 
assumes a certain comfort with the relative overlap 
of the described classroom with their own educa- 
tional setting. 

Gregory Rodney Mackinnon 

See also Case Study Research in Education; 
Generalizability; Genericization; Naturalistic 
Generalization; Qualitative Analysis 
in Case Study; Triangulation 

Further Readings 

Guba, E., & Lincoln, Y. (1989). Fourth generation 

evaluation. London: Sage. 
Kulik, A. J., & Kulik, C. (1986). Effectiveness of 

computer-based education in colleges. AEDS Journal, 

29(2-3), 81-108. 
Miles, M., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data 

analysis: A sourcebook of new methods (2nd ed.). 

Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 
Patton, M. (2002). Qualitative research and evaluation 

(3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 
Roblyer, M. (2005). Educational technology research 

that makes a difference: Series introduction. 

Contemporary Issues in Technology & Teacher 

Education, 5(2), 192-201. 
Selwyn, N. (2002). Telling tales on technology: 

Qualitative studies of technology and education. 

Burlington, VT: Ashgate. 

Bounding the Case 

The very concept of a case study implies the possibil- 
ity of demarcating, hence drawing boundaries 
around, the specific case to be studied, but the term 
case study is often used without a clear conceptual- 
ization of what constitutes the case or its boundaries. 
Furthermore, case studies address phenomena at a 
wide variety of scales, from whole societies through 
entities like business corporations or social move- 
ments, to more specific settings such as prisons or 
communities, to more focused scenes of interaction 
or aspects of biography. Thus it may be difficult to 


Bounding the Case 

formulate general principles with which to address 
the bounding of the case, and the conceptualization 
of such boundaries is recognized to be problemati- 
cal, a point Robert K. Yin incorporates into his very 
definition of the case study as a research design. 

It is, nevertheless, important to address the dif- 
ferent ways in which case studies can be bounded, 
and in particular to distinguish between common- 
sense, theoretical, and methodological ways of 
conceptualizing the spatial and temporal boundar- 
ies surrounding specific case studies. These distinc- 
tions can be discerned in the literature, though they 
often remain implicit. Furthermore, each approach 
illuminates the processes of designing, conducting, 
and analyzing case studies, though theoretical 
bounding arguably remains the most fundamental. 
This entry provides a conceptual overview of the 
problem and discusses its application. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 
The Commonsense Bounding of the Case 

Case studies are often focused on entities that 
have relatively clearly defined spatial boundaries 
as they are experienced and conceptualized in 
everyday life, such as the borders of states or the 
walls bounding prisons or schools. Such organiza- 
tional boundaries are often clearly marked, moni- 
tored, and managed. As a consequence, researchers 
often have to negotiate their access to such research 
settings through gatekeepers, the relevant "author- 
ities" or other participants who may grant or deny 
particular forms of access or approval. 

Thus case study researchers must always be 
sensitive to the ways in which social actors, 
whether onlookers or participants, themselves 
conceptualize and act in relation to institutional 
boundaries surrounding the phenomenon being 
studied. This may be relatively straightforward for 
formally organized and strongly institutionalized 
social entities, but setting boundaries remains a 
concern where boundaries are more amorphous or 
contentious, say in relation to a neighborhood, 
gang, subculture, or ethnic group. In these cases 
the form, extent, and consequences of demarca- 
tion, gatekeeping, and monitoring, and hence the 
extent and character of commonsense bounding, 
are more evidently problematical but are still sig- 
nificant, both for the conduct of the research and 
as a source of analytical insight. 

However, researchers must also problematize 
actors' understandings of the bounding of any case 
study entity, including those apparently more solid 
and clearly demarcated organizations that seem to 
constitute naturally bounded cases to be studied. 
Informants may themselves seek to redefine the 
ways they understand and experience the boundar- 
ies of their activities, and it is likely that competing 
criteria by which actors bound the case are in play. 
Furthermore, the permeability or even precarious- 
ness of established boundaries may be underlined 
by the flows of people, symbols, and materials that 
cross them, highlighting the potential for the 
reconfiguration of such boundaries. Thus the ana- 
lytical agendas and empirical investigations of 
researchers are likely to identify social processes 
that crosscut dominant institutionalized ways of 
bounding the case, inviting a reconceptualization 
of the case in terms that are not simply dependent 
upon commonsense readings of such boundaries. 

The Theoretical Bounding of the Case 

The importance of analyzing the scope and sig- 
nificance of the commonsense bounding of cases 
should be balanced by a critical appraisal of such 
boundary making. A widespread (though not uni- 
versal) response among case study researchers is to 
emphasize the need for a more explicitly theoreti- 
cal conceptualization of the case under investiga- 
tion, informed by the analytical themes and 
research questions that are to be explored. The 
argument is that particular theoretical approaches 
inevitably influence the ways in which researchers 
conceptualize the case they wish to investigate, 
whether the theoretical conceptualization of such 
boundaries is made explicit or remains implicit. 
Thus at each stage of case study research, from the 
initial design of the study, through the interlocking 
activities of field work and analysis, to the final 
write-up, researchers may seek to clarify the impli- 
cations of their theorizing for an understanding of 
the bounding of their case. 

Such theoretical bounding should permit sig- 
nificant reconceptualizations of the case and its 
boundaries during the course of the research, 
though different metatheoretical traditions offer 
distinctive characterizations of the bases of such 
reconceptualization. For example, inductivists 
emphasize that the initial analytical framework 

Bounding the Case 


should have a minimal quality, so that fresh theo- 
retical concepts can be generated from a systematic 
investigation of phenomena within the case. By 
contrast, critical realists (retroductionists) empha- 
size the value of a strong initial conceptual framing 
to guide a process of testing and theoretical revi- 
sion. In either case, theoretical reappraisal may 
involve transgressing the initial analytical bound- 
aries of the case, to widen or simply redraw those 
boundaries in the interest of fresh analytical lever- 
age and theoretical clarification. 

The Methodological Bounding of the Case 

Theoretical reconceptualization of the boundar- 
ies of a case study may suggest that the scope of 
the study should be extended. Yet practical con- 
straints, including such critical issues as the time 
frame for the study, the availability of resources, 
the commitments to funding bodies, and the nego- 
tiation of appropriate access, may preclude pursu- 
ing any substantial redrawing of the analytical 
boundaries of the case. Indeed, case studies, by 
their very nature as detailed investigations of a 
specific case, always face practical limits on the 
extent to which they can extend their analytical 
scope without jeopardizing their strengths as 
intensive and/or holistic analyses. This makes the 
methodological bounding of any case study, the 
way in which the detailed investigation of the case 
is set within a more summary account of the wider 
context that surrounds that case, a pivotal feature 
of the demarcation of the case to be studied. 

Such methodological bounding distinguishes 
between internal contextualization, which is intrin- 
sic to the configurational and often holistic analysis 
of case study research, and external contex- 
tualization, which in more summary fashion places 
any given case study in its wider context. The 
methodological implications of this contrast are 
clarified in Michael Burawoy's discussion of the 
extended case study method. He suggests that 
these wider features of the external context are, 
from the vantage point of researchers studying a 
specific case, necessarily hypostatized as a set of 
given conditions surrounding the case, rather than 
being available for intensive investigation in their 
own right. Thus methodologically they represent 
the bounding of that specific case, in a way 
that continues to register the actual or potential 

analytical saliency of these wider features but does 
not subject them to any detailed processual inves- 

Again, the ways in which such features are con- 
ceptualized will depend upon the metatheoretical 
and theoretical approaches of different research- 
ers, but the crucial point is that they can be regis- 
tered only in summary and reified terms for the 
purposes of a specific case study analysis. Both 
theoretical models and empirical findings may 
point to the salience of particular external features 
for an understanding of processes within the case, 
and thus influence the way in which a specific case 
is externally contextualized, but inevitably this will 
constitute an abbreviated framing in comparison 
with the elaborated internal detail of the case itself. 
Those features that constitute the external context 
for any given case study remain open to detailed 
investigation in another case study, but any such 
study would itself have to be methodologically 
bounded by another reified external context, 
within which the new intensive study would be 
framed and located. 

This characterization of the methodological 
bounding of case studies through the conceptual- 
ization of an external context has important impli- 
cations for thinking about possible linkages between 
different case studies. First, research may move 
from the summary specification of the wider con- 
text to a more systematic investigation of some 
aspects of that context. Thus, smaller case studies 
may be nested within larger ones, as with studies of 
subject-specialisms within a school, or workplaces 
within a local labor market. Here the bounding of 
the case in terms of its reified external context 
moves outward as the larger case study takes shape, 
though the smaller case studies may also retain 
their own analytical value and distinctiveness. 

Second, contiguous case studies may illuminate 
linkages and flows across the conceptual and sub- 
stantive boundaries between such cases. Examples 
would be the linkages between case studies focus- 
ing on the development of government policies 
within the political process and those addressing 
the reception and implementation of such policies 
within state agencies, or studies of the operations 
of enterprises at different points in a design, pro- 
duction, and retail chain. Here specific elements of 
the external context of one case are translated from 
reified forces into dynamic processes, opening the 


Bounding the Case 

possibility of reconceptualizing the component 
cases as phases of a more dispersed spatial and 
temporal process while retaining the virtues of 
intensive internal contextualization. 

Spatial and Temporal Bounding of the Case 

This discussion has focused on case boundaries 
conceptualized in spatial terms, but a parallel set of 
arguments and distinctions is relevant to the bound- 
ing of case studies in temporal terms. Case studies 
are inevitably temporally bounded, though they 
may look backward to developments that predate 
the start of the research, drawing especially on 
documentary sources and informants' recollections, 
and they may be carried forward through continu- 
ing contacts and revisits. In this context, research- 
ers will attend to participants' accounts of distinctive 
phases and turning points that may characterize 
case study developments, but they will also need to 
engage critically with such accounts in ways that 
are informed by their own analytical concerns. 

Furthermore, practical constraints, including 
exigencies of access and research deadlines, will 
also set boundaries around the period that can be 
covered by detailed case study research and analy- 
sis. While the engagement between theoretical 
agendas and actors' accounts should provide the 
basis for an explicit analytical bounding of the case 
in temporal terms, this must also be reconciled 
with the practical temporal realities of data collec- 
tion. This is likely to require a methodological 
distinction between the detailed analysis of tempo- 
ral processes and sequences within the case and a 
more summary and reified treatment of precursor, 
and perhaps also consequent developments. 


The importance of theoretical concerns in bounding 
the case is well illustrated by Paul Willis's study of 
class relations and schooling. His analytical interest 
led him to focus on a small group of disaffected stu- 
dents and to study this subgroup across several set- 
tings — the school, the street, the home, and ultimately 
the workplace — that have often been the concern of 
separate case studies. This provided the basis for his 
influential analysis of key features of their specific 
subcultural repertoire and the ways in which this 
served to reproduce their subordinate class location. 

Drawing the boundaries of the case study in this 
way thus had a coherent theoretical rationale. 

In turn, however, Willis's focus on the cultural 
repertoire of this specific subgroup rather than a 
broader set of students has been criticized from the 
vantage point of other analytical concerns, for 
example those concerned with the less clear-cut 
responses to schooling of a wider spectrum of 
"ordinary kids." 

Tony Elger and Chris Smith provide a good 
example of the ways in which specific institutional 
boundaries may be less clear-cut and more conten- 
tious than first appears, leading to an analytical 
and methodological redrawing of the boundaries 
of case studies. Their research on Japanese subsid- 
iaries in Britain included studies of four enterprises 
within the same locality, but they became increas- 
ingly aware of the ways in which managers from 
such firms sought to cooperate to manage the local 
labor market while workers also operated in 
response to this wider setting and such attempts to 
manage it. They therefore reconceptualized their 
research to include a wider case study of these fea- 
tures of this local labor market while continuing to 
pursue detailed studies of their four firms. 

Critical Summary 

It is valuable to distinguish three bases for bound- 
ing the case in both spatial and temporal terms. 
The first, commonsense bounding, involves the 
documentation and critical investigation of the 
ways in which research subjects themselves experi- 
ence and enact the boundaries surrounding the 
case phenomenon under study. The second, 
theoretical bounding, involves the theoretically 
informed investigation and analytical reappraisal 
of the social relations and processes in play in and 
around the case, which may involve a refocusing of 
the research within more theoretically refined or 
coherent boundaries. Finally, the third form of 
bounding is methodological, as both the investiga- 
tion and theorizing of the phenomena under study 
are partitioned into an intensive analysis of the 
case and a summary characterization of the exter- 
nal context of the case. 

These are distinct though interrelated processes. 
The most fundamental is a theoretically informed 
characterization of the phenomenon under study, 
which draws out the basis on which it can be treated 



as analytically distinct from wider social processes. 
Such theorizing has an ambivalent relationship with 
actors' demarcations of the social phenomena 
addressed by the case study researcher, taking seri- 
ously such bounding but also problematizing its 
role in analytical terms. Thus theoretical bounding 
guides and responds to the detailed investigation of 
phenomena within the case, but case study research 
cannot sustain such an intensive investigation if it 
seeks to trace outward all the flows and intercon- 
nections that may appear analytically salient. 

Here methodological bounding in both time and 
space becomes essential if the virtues of the case 
study research design are to be sustained, because it 
recognizes a heuristic demarcation between the 
detailed investigation and analysis of phenomena 
within the case and the more summary and provi- 
sional treatment of phenomena that impinge from 
beyond the case. As theoretically salient forces or 
processes cross this boundary they are not lost sight 
of analytically, but their treatment changes. Such a 
methodological boundary may well be set to coin- 
cide with one recognized by the research subjects 
themselves, but it explicitly leaves open the theoreti- 
cal significance of such institutionalized boundaries 
in relation to social processes that cross-cut them. 
Finally, this focus on the methodological bounding 
of case studies facilitates an understanding of the 
ways in which different case studies may overlap or 
interface with one another. 

Tony Elger 

See also Contextualization; Critical Realism; Extended 
Case Method; Inductivism 

Further Readings 

Burawoy, M. (1998). The extended case study method. 
Sociological Theory, 16(1), 4-33. 

Burawoy, M. (2003). Revisits: An outline of a theory of 
reflexive ethnography. American Sociological Review, 
68(5), 645-679. 

Burgess, R., Pole, C. J., Evans, K., & Priestley, C. (1994). 
Four sites from one or one study from four? Multi-site 
case study research. In A. Bryman & R. Burgess (Eds.), 
Analysing qualitative data (pp. 129-145). London: 

Elger, T., & Smith, C. (2005). Assembling work: 

Remaking factory regimes in Japanese multinationals 
in Britain. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. 

Mitchell, J. C. (1983). Case and situation analysis. 

Sociological Review, 31(2), 187-211. 
Ragin, C. C, & Becker, H. S. (1992). What is a case? 

Exploring the foundations of social inquiry. 

Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 
Wells, A. S., Hirshberg, D., Lipton, M., & Oakes, J. 

(1995). Bounding the case within its context: A 

constructivist approach to studying detracking reform. 

Educational Researcher, 24(5), 18-24. 
Willis, P. (1977). Learning to labour: How working class 

kids get working class jobs. London: Saxon House. 
Yin, R. K. (1994). Case study research: Design and 

methods (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 


Bricoleur is a French common noun with no pre- 
cise equivalent in English. Claude Levi-Strauss 
used this term in The Savage Mind when discuss- 
ing magic and mythology. For him, magical 
thought always had a basis in human imagination, 
which was rooted in experience of some kind. By 
definition, a bricoleur is a person who can skill- 
fully and professionally complete a range of differ- 
ent tasks. The way it was used by Levi-Strauss, 
and many qualitative researchers following him, it 
refers to the ability to draw on different analytic 
techniques with which one is familiar, the choice 
of which to use being situationally determined. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

For Levi-Strauss, bricolage was used to describe a 
way of knowing the world, one that would draw 
upon existing ways of classifying objects and prac- 
tices. The bricoleur by definition is able to per- 
form a number of different tasks, using whatever 
tools (mental or physical) are at his or her dis- 
posal. In this way the bricoleur is seen to possess 
a "toolbox" of sorts, one that in the context of a 
researcher contains different knowledges, perspec- 
tives, and techniques; in isolation, they may have 
no apparent use but are there because past experi- 
ence or exposure indicates they have been, or have 
the potential to be, useful. 

What bricoleur researchers therefore do is keep 
things in their toolbox in case they may come in 
handy at some point in the future. Related metaphors 



include quilt-maker (who creates a finished product 
out of scraps of material that otherwise have little 
use) or jazz improviser (who creates music in unpre- 
dictable ways using a repertoire of harmonies and 
rhythms). Common to these metaphors is a stock of 
materials from which a finished product is created. 


As a metaphor, bricolage is often used to describe a 
fluid approach to research that might consist of 
using or doing several different things. As Norman 
K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln point out, there 
are many kinds of bricoleurs; for example, interpre- 
tive, narrative, theoretical, political, and method- 
ological. Whatever researchers are trying to 
accomplish, they do so in an emergent way as brico- 
leurs use the tools at their disposal, or add new ones 
to their toolbox as they become aware of new ones. 
Bricoleurs can even create new techniques if the 
ones at their disposal are not adequate for the prob- 
lems being researched, emphasizing the fact that in 
much qualitative research, not all decisions concern- 
ing research design can be made in advance. 

This approach to research is therefore quite 
consistent with grounded theory and naturalistic 
approaches, both of which emphasize the need to 
be open to discovery and sensitive to the way 
research questions and the context in which they 
are studied are related. 

Theoretical and methodological bricolage was 
used by Sigmund Wagner-Tsukamoto and Mark 
Tadajewski in their study of the green consumer, 
which examined how consumers assess the envi- 
ronmental friendliness of supermarket products. At 
a theoretical level, their use of cognitive anthropol- 
ogy draws on practical thinking that reflects action- 
oriented learning and intelligence as well as the 
information-processing and problem-solving tools 
that individuals are already familiar with. This per- 
mits the investigation of how skillful consumers 
frame a decision-making choice in relation to the 
subjective perception and construction of context. 

This empirical question was addressed by the 
use of multiple data sources (interviews, observa- 
tion, and archival research) providing a form of 
triangulation that helped minimize social desirabil- 
ity biases in their interviews. Their findings showed 
that consumers were able to deal effectively with 
informational deficiencies in the context of their 

everyday lives, and that consumers sought out the 
information that was most easily obtained and 
relevant to their shopping context. 

Critical Summary 

The metaphor of the bricoleur can, however, be a 
somewhat pejorative one. This comes from Levi- 
Strauss's own writing, where the bricoleur was 
contrasted to an engineer (ostensibly a more tech- 
nical person), and thus engaged in a "softer" sci- 
ence. That being said, engineers themselves use a 
certain set of techniques that they obtain through 
training — their ability to see beyond personal 
experience and existing stocks of knowledge is 
anything but certain. The bricoleur/engineer dis- 
tinction might therefore not be an important one 
to make. 

What is useful in the metaphor of the researcher 
as a bricoleur is that it has practical application in 
studying complex phenomena, where researchers' 
interaction with their subjects, the possibility of 
multiple realities, and the unforeseen directions 
research can take are embraced by an approach to 
research that can follow a number of different 
paths, not all of which can be planned for in 
advance of research being conducted. This allows 
for greater understanding of existing phenomena, 
and creates the possibility of addressing questions 
heretofore not considered. 

David Wicks 

See also Grounded Theory; Mixed Methods in Case 
Study Research; Naturalistic Inquiry; Triangulation 

Further Readings 

Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2005). Introduction: The 
discipline and practice of qualitative research. In N. K. 
Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The Sage handbook of 
qualitative research (3rd ed, pp. 1-32). Thousand Oaks, 
CA: Sage. 

Derrida, J. (1978). Structure, sign and play in the discourse 
of the human sciences. In Writing and difference 
(pp. 278-294). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 

Levi-Strauss, C. (1966). The savage mind. Chicago: 
University of Chicago Press. 

Wagner-Tsukamoto, S., & Tadajewski, M. (2006). 
Cognitive anthropology and the problem-solving 
behavior of green consumers. Journal of Consumer 
Behavior, 5, 235-244. 

Case Selection 

Case selection is the rational selection of one or 
more instances of a phenomenon as the particular 
subject of research. The reasons for selecting a 
case or cases vary from interest in the particular 
case to theoretical considerations. The relevance 
of the case or cases for the research objective is the 
most important criterion for selection. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

The selection of cases is an essential part of the case 
study research design. Because of the intensive data 
collection methods in case study research, the 
number of research units can be very limited. 
Single-case designs examine one unit of a social 
phenomenon, while multiple-case designs compare 
2 to 10 cases. This relatively limited amount of 
research units puts an emphasis on the researchers' 
justification of the selection of cases. In contrast 
to survey research, case study research samples are 
ideally selected strategically rather than randomly. 
Researchers need to select cases that give a maxi- 
mum amount of information about the research 
objective at stake. For example, researchers look 
for cases that give a maximum opportunity to fal- 
sify hypotheses that are drawn from earlier research. 
Or they select cases that help to identify the specific 
conditions and characteristics of a phenomenon 
that has been characterized in only general terms. 
The criteria for case selection depend on the 
type of research question: descriptive, exploratory, 

or explanatory. With a descriptive research ques- 
tion, the cases selected should give maximal infor- 
mation about the specific features and characteristics 
of a particular social phenomenon. With a single 
case study, researchers look for an average case; a 
case that is a typical example of a specific phenom- 
enon. They may also select an extreme case; a case 
where the social phenomenon is visible in a very 
pronounced way or under extreme circumstances. 
By investigating such a case in depth, a detailed 
and elaborate description of the phenomenon is 
reached. A descriptive research question may also 
lead to a multiple-case study design, where a series 
of cases with common characteristics are studied. 
The researchers focus on describing the cases sepa- 
rately, rather than looking for common patterns 
and explanations. The specific features and charac- 
teristics of the cases are compared. Alexander 
George and Andrew Bennett refer to this type of 
(single and multiple) case study as ideographic con- 
figurative case study. 

With an exploratory research question, research- 
ers select cases that maximize the opportunities for 
developing hypotheses or theories that explain the 
social phenomenon at stake. Since this is an induc- 
tive research design, screening of the cases has to be 
based on empirical considerations. The researcher 
selects a single case that obviously differs from 
other instances of a social phenomenon — this is 
called a deviant case study. Or the researcher selects 
a case that seems not to fulfill theoretical expecta- 
tions, with the aim to use the case for the purpose 
of developing additional theories — this is called a 
critical case study design. Another multiple-case 



Case Selection 

study design with an exploratory character is the 
one George and Bennett call the building block 
theory. Researchers screen all instances of a social 
phenomenon for subclasses with similar character- 
istics. By systematically describing and comparing 
within these subclasses, subtheories may be devel- 
oped that cover a part of the social phenomenon. 
These may be added to theories derived from dif- 
ferent selections of groups. 

With an explanatory research question, the 
selection of cases is based on theoretical consider- 
ations. Here a deductive research design is needed, 
where cases are screened for their ability to falsify 
theories or hypotheses that are derived from earlier 
research. This may be a single case study where the 
adaptability of a theory is first tested to explore 
whether a more elaborate testing is needed. George 
and Bennett call this a plausibility probe. It might 
also be a single case study that tests the ability of 
more competing theories for explaining the course 
of events in a particular case. A famous example is 
Graham Allison's 1971 study of the Cuban missile 
crisis. Here Allison tests three competing theories 
that may explain the behavior of the two main 
actors in this crisis, namely the Soviet Union and 
the United States. The Soviet Union placed offen- 
sive missiles in Cuba and the United States 
responded with a blockade, rather than an air 
strike or an invasion. Allison tests to what extent 
the behavior of these two actors can be explained 
by considering them like rational actors, like com- 
plex bureaucracies, or like groups of persons with 
a political motivation. This helps to generalize 
about complex government actions. 

There is general agreement that a multiple-case 
study design offers the best abilities for testing 
theories or hypotheses because it allows research- 
ers to systematically compare variation between 
the cases. It is on this aspect the academic debate 
on case selection has been developed most elabo- 
rately. The debate focuses on how to select and 
compare cases systematically in such a way that 
theory testing is convincingly served. 

The discussion on the selection of case studies 
goes back to the classical text of John Stuart Mill 
on the systematic comparing social phenomena. By 
describing the method of agreement and method of 
difference, he shaped the base for present-day 
selection of cases in a multiple-case study research. 
For using the method of agreement, the researcher 

selects two instances where the same social phe- 
nomenon occurs, but in very different circum- 
stances. By comparing the two cases, the researcher 
can eliminate all contextual variables that are not 
necessary for the phenomenon to occur. The vari- 
ables that the two phenomena have in common are 
probably the cause of the event that occurred. 

When using Mill's method of difference, 
researchers select instances that have the same or 
comparable circumstances, but that differ in the 
presence or absence of the phenomenon they want 
to study. By comparing the cases, the researchers 
can identify the (small) variation in circumstances 
of the different cases. The single circumstance in 
which the cases differ is probably the cause of the 

In his influential book The Comparative Method: 
Moving Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative 
Strategies, Charles Ragin translated Mill's methods 
in criteria for case study selection. He argues case 
study research is very suitable for revealing multi- 
ple causations of social phenomena. Most social 
issues that arise do not have a single cause, but are 
the effect of multiple causes interacting with each 
other. It is because of the possibility of this multiple 
causation that Ragin argues Mill's method of 
agreement is not suitable for explaining social phe- 
nomena. Instances that may be caused either by 
one particular instance or by another particular 
instance may be falsely judged to have neither of 
these instances as a cause. He therefore pleads for 
a double application of the method of agreement, 
namely the indirect method of difference. 
Researchers should look for instances of a social 
phenomenon that have only very few circumstances 
in common, as well as for instances where this 
social phenomenon is absent. Only if the circum- 
stances that may explain the phenomenon's occur- 
rence are absent in all cases where the phenomenon 
is absent can a causal relation be identified. 

George and Bennett propose an alternative to 
comparing the variation between cases, by focus- 
ing instead on the variation within cases. They 
state that selection of cases allows for variation 
between cases in both dependent and independent 
variables, on the condition that within-case analy- 
sis is used to compensate for the limitations in the 
selection. They present two types of within-case 
analysis, namely the congruence method and pro- 
cess tracing. The congruence method refers to the 

Case Selection 


researcher formulating or reproducing a theory 
and predicting the outcome of the circumstances 
in a certain case. If the outcome of the case is 
consistent with the theory's prediction, there is a 
possible causal relationship between the circum- 
stances and the social phenomenon. The method 
of process tracing refers to the researcher system- 
atically examining the intervening steps between 
initial conditions and the occurrence of a particu- 
lar social phenomenon. By making a detailed 
analysis of this process, the list of potential causes 
is narrowed. 


An example of the use of the method of agreement 
can be found in a comparative case study research 
by Inge Bleijenbergh and Conny Roggeband. They 
test three hypotheses on the relationship between 
political pressure from women and policy change 
regarding work-life policies in Western European 
welfare states. The hypotheses state that the intro- 
duction of childcare policies or parental leave 
schemes can be explained by (1) the presence 
of women in national parliaments, (2) the presence 
of a strong women's movement, and (3) equality 
machinery (an agency or agencies — whether inter- 
nal or independent — established by the govern- 
ment to stimulate gender equality). By comparing 
six cases of Western European welfare states intro- 
ducing childcare arrangements or parental leave 
schemes between 1985 and 2000, they found that 
equality machinery was the only condition that 
was present in all cases of work-life policy change. 
Further research is needed to examine whether 
equality machinery is absent in cases where social 
policy change does not occur. 

An example of the indirect method of difference 
can be found in Pien Bos's work. She examines the 
decision-making process of unmarried mothers in 
South India concerning relinquishing their child to 
adoptive parents. The general theoretical expecta- 
tion is that unmarried motherhood does not exist 
in India because it is a cultural taboo. Unmarried 
women who get pregnant are expected to have 
culturally no other option than to deny the exis- 
tence of the child after abandonment. Bos, how- 
ever, succeeded in tracing nine unmarried mothers 
who raised their child themselves and compared 
their stories to ones from 29 mothers who decided 

to relinquish their child. She was able to show that 
the relation between unmarried pregnancy and 
relinquishment of the child is not self-evident, and 
identified the ability of women of the lower cul- 
tural castes in the cultural context of South India 
to exercise agency. 

Critical Summary 

Because the selection of cases is an important ele- 
ment of a case study research design, it needs to be 
substantiated carefully in research proposals or 
research reports. Scholars have to report the crite- 
ria they used and the screening process they fol- 
lowed. The selection of cases should be based on 
the research question, whether descriptive, explor- 
atory, or explanatory, and may be driven by 
empirical or theoretical considerations. Scholars 
agree on the preference for selecting multiple 
rather than single cases to answer exploratory or 
explanatory research questions. 

Inge Bleijenbergh 

See also Configurative-Ideographic Case Study; 
Descriptive Case Study; Explanatory Case Study; 
Exploratory Case Study; Extreme Cases; Method of 
Agreement; Method of Difference; Multiple-Case 
Designs; Process Tracing; Single-Case Designs 

Further Readings 

Bleijenbergh, L, & Roggeband, C. (2007). Equality 

machineries matter: The impact of women's political 

pressure on European social-care policies. Social 

Politics, 14(4), 437-459. 
Bos, P. (2007). Once a mother: Relinquishment and 

adoption from the perspective of unmarried mothers 

in South India. Unpublished doctoral thesis, Radboud 

University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands. 
George, A., & Bennett, A. (2004). Case studies and 

theory development. Cambridge, MA, & London: 

MIT Press. 
Mill, J. S. (1974). A system of logic: Ratiocinative and 

inductive. Toronto & Buffalo, NY: University of 

Toronto Press. 
Ragin, C. (1989). The comparative method: Moving 

beyond qualitative and quantitative strategies. Los 

Angeles: University of California Press. 
Yin, R. (2003). Case study research: Design and methods. 

Thousand Oaks, CA, London, & New Delhi: Sage. 


Case Study and Theoretical Science 

Case Study and 
Theoretical Science 

The status of case study research in the social sci- 
ences could be considered somewhat ambiguous. 
The social sciences are theoretical sciences, and 
theoretical science, by definition, seeks to general- 
ize. Nevertheless, political and social events and 
phenomena occur only within unique, concrete 
cases, contexts, and events. This makes the rela- 
tionship between the generalizing spirit of theo- 
retical science and the uniqueness of case studies 

Case studies, though unique by definition, are 
implicitly theoretical. They are theoretical since 
they are done, not out of interest in the uniqueness 
of selected cases, but because these particular cases 
are assumed to be typical. Researchers employing 
case study methodology assume that what is 
learned from particular cases will be typical, hence 
generalizable. It is for this reason that case studies, 
though dealing with unique situations, carry theo- 
retical pretensions. To be sure, case studies are 
sometimes undertaken explicitly for the unique- 
ness of the case, and only for descriptive purposes. 
However, these case studies form a basis for subse- 
quent further exploration and theorizing. Case 
studies are also undertaken to understand the 
"outlier" case — that very unique event, organiza- 
tion, group, etcetera, in order to understand what 
is missing from our more generalized theorizing. 
These studies also have as their end the intent of 
developing or modifying theory. 

Case study researchers cannot simply take for 
granted that a given case is typical. The typical 
character of a case must somehow be established. 
At the most basic level, informal argument is pre- 
sented to establish the typical character of a single 
case. This is done routinely in everyday discourse, 
throughout the social sciences, and even in the 
advanced natural sciences. However, in research 
that aspires to scientific status, something more 
than informal argument is often required. 

Case Study and Experimental Science 

The experimental sciences often serve as an exem- 
plar for case study research, particularly for posi- 
tivistically oriented researchers. In the experimental 

sciences, hypotheses are tested in controlled exper- 
iments. Certain aspects of an experimental situa- 
tion, the initial conditions or independent variables, 
are specified together with a hypothesis stating the 
expected outcome. Since the experimenter strives 
to recreate identical initial conditions for each rep- 
etition of an experiment, initial conditions may 
appear to be generalizations by definition. It is 
easy to overlook the fact that each experiment is 
actually a unique case. No two repetitions can be 
precisely identical. Although experimenters strive 
to make sure that each repetition is sufficiently 
identical, they can never be sure of what consti- 
tutes sufficient identity. Experimenters are often 
befuddled by unexpected outcomes due to some- 
thing unnoticed in the initial conditions of a 
repeated experiment, or to problems in conceptu- 
alization of the experiment. 

In the experimental sciences, flaws in initial con- 
ditions can be discovered and independent variables 
revised, while variables in case study research can 
only rarely be artificially manipulated. Although 
the focus of interest of a case study can be rede- 
fined, as can the variables thought to be relevant, 
the situation studied, in all its richness and com- 
plexity, is beyond the researcher's control. The 
researcher may be able to choose variables but, 
unlike the experimental researcher, cannot manipu- 
late them. Moreover, in experimental situations, 
variables can usually be isolated; that is, stripped of 
much complexity. In case study research, while the 
researcher may decide not to count features of a 
given situation as relevant, they can only rarely be 
removed from the situation. Even then, the removal 
of a feature will impact other features in the situa- 
tion, some of which the researcher may not even be 
aware. The impossibility of artificially excluding 
everything but a predetermined set of independent 
variables makes intellectual work with given situa- 
tions unavoidable in case study research. 

Such problems are not unique to case study 
research or to the social sciences more generally. 
Much natural science research must also take the 
features of the situations studied as givens. Among 
these are evolutionary biology, paleontology, geol- 
ogy, phylogeny, astronomy, physical anthropology, 
physical geography, meteorology, and seismology. 
Much research in such sciences is historical in 
character. Much of it consists of reconstructions of 
unique situations that are sufficiently rich in detail 

Case Study and Theoretical Science 


to explain particular events. Such science works 
with what information is available to create as 
plausible an explanation as possible. Later it might 
be completely overturned by new information and 
hypotheses. Another genre of historically oriented 
research is genetic in character. It seeks to explain, 
with sufficient richness of detail, how particular 
states of affairs came to be. 

Explanation by Typical Initial Conditions 

The theoretical social sciences, notes Karl Popper, 
usually ask questions about kinds or types of 
events or phenomena, and they almost always 
make use of a method that consists of constructing 
types of situations or conditions, that is to say, the 
method of constructing informal or verbal models. 
Much of what is called theory in the social sci- 
ences, as well as in many areas in the natural sci- 
ences, consists of explanation by typical initial 
conditions. Such generalized typical initial condi- 
tions are sometimes called typological theories. 

Such models, usually not formalized, are used 
to explain specific instances of the phenomenon 
under investigation. When the model fails to 
explain, it has been shown to be problematic. This 
does not mean that the model will be discarded. It 
means only that some explanation must be sought 
for its failure to explain the particular instance at 
hand. It is the problem resulting from a model's 
failure to explain that drives inquiry farther. 
Various hypotheses may be proposed to explain 
the problem. The model may be incomplete. The 
investigator might not be aware that something is 
wrong with the premises. A model may fail to 
explain because, for example, it is not rich enough 
in detail, because it incorporates a faulty assump- 
tion, or because of its conceptualization. The 
researcher can then focus on why the model fails 
to explain in any given case. Falsification, that is, 
rendering a model problematic, in this case, plays 
the role of driver in the growth of knowledge. 

Organization theory, role theory, small-group 
theory, and game theory are but a few examples of 
bodies of typical social situations used as explana- 
tions in social science. When small-group theory is 
used to explain a particular instance of behavior of 
a congressional committee, it will be hypothesized 
that the variance will be explained by typical initial 
conditions provided by small-group theory. If this 

fails to explain the variance, the theory will be 
rendered problematic. Its failure to account for the 
variance will require explanation. Explanation will 
typically be provided by an enrichment or repair of 
initial conditions. Such an explanation will iden- 
tify some features of the congressional committee 
or of its decision situation that makes the deviant 
outcome comprehensible. 

Much general, systematic knowledge in the 
natural sciences similarly consists of generaliza- 
tions of types of situations. For example, in meteo- 
rology there is systematic knowledge of the 
characteristic of types of weather systems. In seis- 
mology there is systematic knowledge concerning 
typical conditions under which earthquakes occur. 
Scientists in such areas of research face problems 
that are not unlike those confronted by researchers 
making use of case study methodologies. 

The focus of interest in case study research, as in 
scientific inquiry more generally, does not necessarily 
or even usually aim at the highest possible level of 
generalization or abstraction. Scientific problems 
almost always arise within limited contexts and are 
often solved or explained by generalizations that 
apply only within such limited contexts. Most case 
studies aim at generalizations that are valid only 
within limited contexts. It's possible to reconstruct 
the setting of a particular small group, such as a 
single congressional committee or the Politburo of 
the Communist Party of the former Soviet Union, or 
of the method of operation of one particular crimi- 
nal. Such contextually limited models may be used 
to explain specific instances of the group's or indi- 
vidual's behavior. This is, in fact, just what scholars 
who study congressional committees and the Soviet 
Politburo often actually do. They seek to reconstruct 
the enduring, the typical features of the institutional 

This is not unlike many areas in the advanced 
natural sciences that focus exclusively on general- 
izations that hold only within narrowly delimited 
contexts. There are, for example, many generaliza- 
tions that are true of dogs but not of other mam- 
mals. And there are many generalizations about 
mammals that do not hold for other vertebrates. 
Scientists in the advanced natural sciences rarely 
seek the highest degree of universality of general- 
ization. They usually look for contextually limited 
generalizations, and are entirely satisfied when 
they find satisfactory ones. 

66 Case Study as a Methodological Approach 

Critical Summary 

Case study research can thus be viewed as continu- 
ous with both experimental science and history, 
and as theoretical in character. In experimental sci- 
ence, typical initial conditions are held constant, 
yet initial conditions may range from the very gen- 
eral and abstract to the very rich and specific. A 
historical study may be done out of an interest in 
that particular unique event, with the full richness 
of the event reconstructed. The same study may be 
hypothesized to be typical, hence generalizable, 
and be treated as a case study, with attention 
focused on the typical features of the situation. 
Interest in a case may be at any level of abstrac- 
tion, from the unique to the most general. 

The word theory is used in different ways in ordi- 
nary language, as well as in science, and is, to some 
extent, a contested concept. Some social scientists 
and philosophers of science would deny the status 
of scientific theory to the kinds of generalizations of 
typical situations discussed in the present context. 
However, if it is accepted that the task of empirical 
science is to propose generalizations that simplify 
reality and are testable, case study research can eas- 
ily be seen as an integral part of the research activity 
of theoretical science. 

Fred Eidlin 

See also Contextualization; Generalizability; Paradigmatic 
Cases; Situational Analysis; Substantive Theory; 
Theory, Role of; Theory-Building With Cases; Theory- 
Testing With Cases 

Further Readings 

Eidlin, F. (2006). Reconciling the unique and the general: 
Area studies, case studies, and history vs. theoretical 
social science (Working Paper Series 8). Committee on 
Concepts and Methods (C&M), International Political 
Science Association. Retrieved April 29, 2009, from 

George, A. L., & Bennett, A. (2005). Case studies and 
theory development in the social sciences. Cambridge: 
MIT Press. 

Gerring, J. (2004). What is a case study and what is it 
good for? American Political Science Review, 98(2), 

Popper, K. R. (1994). Models, instruments, and truth: 
The status of the rationality principle in the social 

sciences. In M. A. Notturno (Ed.), The myth of the 
framework: In defence of science and rationality (pp. 
154-184). London & New York: Routledge. 

Case Study as a 
Methodological Approach 

A case study is a commonly used method among 
business economists studying firms and organiza- 
tional behavior. It can be seen as a special research 
strategy and approach that can use either qualita- 
tive or quantitative data, or even combinations of 
them. The studied cases are usually simple ones, 
and they are studied in their own special environ- 
ment. The model can be considered as ideographic. 
Examples of ideograms include wayfinding (i.e., 
directional) signs or Arabic numerals, which are 
used worldwide regardless of how they are pro- 
nounced in different languages. The case data can 
be either longitudinal or cross-sectional. It is 
important that the setting for research is con- 
nected to previous theories, which form a founda- 
tion for the analyses and interpretations in the 
conclusions. A researcher and a research object 
interact constantly with each other in a case study, 
and maintaining mutual trust is, therefore, a part 
of the research process. In the results, the objec- 
tive is to understand and interpret thoroughly the 
individual cases in their own special context, and 
to find information concerning the dynamics and 
the processes. A case study may also produce 
hypotheses and research ideas for further studies. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Case study is used in gathering scientific data in 
different disciplines, in clinical psychology for sci- 
entific and therapeutic purposes, as educational 
tools for understanding pedagogic processes, and 
as strategies for making sense of sociological and 
political outcomes, among others. In its early stages 
the object of case study in the qualitative tradition 
involved a focus on one company or the stages of 
an individual. For instance, psychoanalysis set out 
to understand the inner dynamics of individuals, 
and assumed that people's mental structures were 
similar from case to case; in life-cycle analyses of a 
single company, its inner dynamics of development 

Case Study as a Methodological Approach 67 

were seen as similar to other organizations. The 
gathered pieces of information constitute qualita- 
tive data, which are then interpreted. Qualitative 
data can be gathered not only as texts but also as 
pictures or through participatory observation, and 
a range of other methods. Interviews, for example, 
especially thematic interviews, are the most com- 
mon data gathering method for a case study. Using 
several different methods also enables triangula- 
tion, that is, the information received from differ- 
ent data can be compared, which, according to 
some researchers, like David Silverman, increases 
validity. Kathleen Eisenhardt argues that it is also 
possible to use quantitative data alongside qualita- 
tive data in case studies. Here research strategies 
can include experimental research, quantitative 
survey study, qualitative field study, and participa- 
tory observation. Case study is a special research 
strategy that can bring various quantitative and 
qualitative methods together. 

Case study is often used in the field of business 
economics as well as in other disciplines. Among 
them are administration sciences and technical sci- 
ences, where the research objects frequently include 
independent organizational entities, such as com- 
panies and other administrative organizations. The 
studied cases are unique by nature. For example, a 
company as a business unit forms a natural eco- 
nomic and judicial entity for a case study to exam- 
ine, and it is relevant to study the organizational, 
business, and administrative characteristics within 
the framework of the unit. Public administration 
organizations are also relevant targets for case 
study. Organizational behavior, including individ- 
ual and group behavior in an organization, as well 
as understanding and explaining it in some work 
communities, is so complex a task that sometimes 
only case study can offer an adequate founda- 
tion — see, for example, the work of Chris Clegg, 
Nigel Kemp, and Karen Legge. Case study has 
been described — in now-classic works by Barney 
Glaser and Anselm Strauss, by Robert Yin, and 
others — as an independent methodical and meth- 
odological scientific approach. 

Applications of Case Study 

There are several different research methods for 
analyzing qualitative data, including linguistic 
interpretations of texts, which include discourse 

analysis, deconstruction, as well as semiotic and 
narrative analyses. In this latter approach, the 
object unit of study, that is, a text itself, is a more 
dominant factor than a particular study's focus on 
different empirical units, within or across organi- 
zations. Overall, the use of qualitative research 
methodology has become more common in 
European — especially Nordic and Finnish — 
research practices in different disciplines. As Timo 
Toivonen points out, for example, in sociology the 
use of quantitative research methods has decreased 
in favor of a growing qualitative tradition follow- 
ing Thomas Kuhn's work on science and its prog- 
ress through paradigmatic revolutions. The 
tradition of case study is different from survey 
study and its generalization viewpoint, since a sur- 
vey study uses statistical, often multivariate, meth- 
ods as a support. Case study has collapsed the 
generalization viewpoint of the quantitative 
research tradition, and has contributed to the cre- 
ation of new methods in the social sciences. Some 
of these methods are originally from the humanis- 
tic research tradition, such as the study of litera- 
ture. However, cases and their analyses also form 
an independent methodological and methodical 
approach and a data-gathering model for empiri- 
cal social study. 

As Sirkka Hirsjarvi and colleagues contend, the 
variable features of qualitative research are suitable 
for case study where the research data is gathered 
in natural, real-life situations. Researchers' own 
observations and discussions as instruments are 
used more often than measuring, which is viewed 
as an "indirect" method for assessing rich data. 
Analysis is inductive by nature, in other words, a 
researcher's objective is to reveal unexpected issues. 
Testing the theory or the hypotheses is less impor- 
tant than examining the data in a complex and 
precise manner. The research set for the study is 
selected expediently, rather than through the method 
of random sampling, and the studied cases are 
treated as unique. In addition, a case study is con- 
ducted in a flexible manner, and plans are changed 
if conditions require it. This way, the research plan 
is formulated during the research process. 

In addition to firms and organizations, it is also 
possible to study individuals with the case study 
method. In clinical psychology, case study methods 
have always been used. The theoretical conclu- 
sions of psychotherapy are based on individual 

68 Case Study as a Methodological Approach 

cases in which developmental paths are described 
in an individual manner. Although it might be dif- 
ficult to compare the cases with each other, it is 
possible to find a common theme such as, for 
example, recovery processes. The traditions of psy- 
choanalysis and psychotherapy have considered 
case study as a core of scientific discourse. In the 
psychoanalytical literature, Donald Spence and 
Roy Schafer, as well as Antero Kiianmaa, have 
maintained the research tradition of action research 
and the use of narratives as data. On the other 
hand, behaviorist psychology does not significantly 
base its theoretical development on cases, but may 
occasionally develop a case as a prestudy for for- 
mulating the question of the actual study; and case 
studies are used in testing preliminary hypotheses. 
In this behaviorist research approach the use of 
cases is secondary to the scientific analysis and is 
not what usually is meant by a case study in the 
original sense. 

The case study approach in business studies dif- 
fers from the psychological case study in that it 
does not necessarily aim at the "recovery process" 
in a psychotherapeutic manner. Management con- 
sulting as such may have as its goal this kind of 
therapeutic outcome but this is not usually viewed 
as scientific research. The act of consulting does 
not, however, question the objectives of recovery, 
and its viewpoint on the whole process is practi- 
cal. Theory formation is not used as a starting 
point or an objective of the study. Nevertheless, it 
is rather common that the case data gathered dur- 
ing the consultation are used in the research of 
business studies and in other applied sciences, 
such as engineering. 

Cases are also an important means of education. 
A rich and descriptive case of a firm or a person 
promotes learning by giving a practical framework 
for generalizations and theoretical explications. 
Students can compare their personal experiences 
on the topic with this framework, and in this way 
learning becomes an experiential process. Sometimes 
it is possible to use scholarly case data as teaching 
material, but both the objectives and the contents 
vary from case to case. The theoretical frame, the 
research questions, as well as conclusions drawn 
from the case are important for case research, 
whereas pedagogical dynamics, heuristic nature, 
and the variety of data promoting learning are 
important in the educational use of cases. 

This entry examines a case study from the meth- 
odological point of view, and as a special scholarly 
approach. Case study does not form only one 
method or set of methods, but is an approach or a 
research strategy that researchers often use in indi- 
vidual ways to apply to the research setting in 
question. It is used — as in the work of Jean Hartley 
and the later work of Kathleen Eisenhardt — in 
reaching an understanding of the inner dynamics 
of a unit. Case studies are especially suitable for 
attempts to understand the variable social phe- 
nomena in real-life environments, as Robert Yin 
argues, in the situation of business management. 
Also, when existing theories concerning the stud- 
ied phenomenon are inadequate, a case study can 
help theory formation by constructing the pyramid 
"from bottom to top." 

A Concise Presentation of the 
Characteristics of a Case Study 

There are benefits to gathering data on individ- 
ual cases. A researcher may gather data by partici- 
pating in the life of the studied community for 
weeks, or even years, and in this way receive 
important and fundamental knowledge that helps 
answer the research questions. The unique nature 
of the research object is part of the setting for 
research, and therefore the objective is not to find 
universal rules but to understand the case or cases 
deeply in their own unique environment. Hartley's 
work in 1999 examined two different labor strikes, 
the ways in which they were organized, as well as 
the strike committees — and found significant local 
differences between them. It would have been dif- 
ficult to point out the differences without intensive 
use of case study, since the means of decision mak- 
ing as well as the decision makers over the period 
of the strike proved to be important factors on the 
course of the strike. It would have been impossible 
to predict these factors beforehand. These indi- 
vidual findings also supported prior theories on 
strike behavior. Consequently, the nature of the 
studied unit, its own way of acting and thinking, 
are important research findings in a case study. 

Case study is not a separate method or tool iso- 
lated from the research context. On the contrary, as 
an approach it breaks down the tool-like concep- 
tion of the use of methods. In empirical social sci- 
entific research, the basic unit of research consists 

Case Study as a Methodological Approach 69 

of a researcher and a research object. The researcher 
gathers data from the research object by using dif- 
ferent types of observation and data gathering 
methods. The research methods used can include 
interviews, familiarizing oneself with the written 
material in the research setting, participatory obser- 
vation, and survey, all of which will produce data. 
The "information" collected through empirical 
data gathering is ready to be analyzed or inter- 
preted while preparing the conclusions of the study. 
It is rather common in case studies that the 
researcher uses several different data gathering 
methods, and that the amount of research data 
received this way may also vary. Therefore, case 
study can be considered as an approach that the 
researcher uses when dealing with the research 
object and gathering data about it. The interpreta- 
tion of the data is different from the analysis of the 
typical survey data, where generalization and sta- 
tistical analyses form the foundation. 

The challenges in case study are the same as in 
every data gathering method. Formulating the 
research question primarily determines the meth- 
odology or the method that is the best for the 
empirical part of the study. A method is not an end 
in itself but a means for gathering data. The cor- 
nerstones of case study methods are the research- 
er's role in the research process, the context in 
which the research is carried out, connecting the 
setting for research with existing theory, the use of 
various methods that aim at increasing reliability 
throughout the process, and finally, the research- 
er's committed and skilful analysis. The approach 
is both holistic (beginning from an entity) and 
inductive (moving from the general to the specific), 
rather than a deductive one, that is, moving from 
the specific toward the general. The case study 
model can also be considered idiographic; that is, 
it tries to explain and understand the individual 
cases in their own unique contexts. 

Case data can be either longitudinal or cross- 
sectional. Longitudinal data are used in examining 
change, the life-circle, or the history of a unit. The 
data may consist of one or several cases. If there are 
several studied cases, then the research setting can be 
a comparison of these units on selected dimensions. 
On the other hand, if a researcher is studying only 
one single case, the object of the study can consist of 
history, changes on some measurable dimensions, or 
the researcher can, for example, explain a phenom- 

enon, such as economic returns, with its internal 
features (see Table 1). The research questions and 
the setting for the research determine the number 
and the nature of the cases. The rich research data 
from a case study give opportunities to quote the 
interviewees and to bring forward the viewpoint of 
an actor in the empirical study. A thorough case 
study is not, however, merely a description of data; 
it is a logical approach that relies on interpretation 
and analysis. Finding its roots in the theoretical 
frame is, therefore, a special challenge for a case 
study: A clear conceptual frame forms a foundation 
for interpreting the results of a case study. 

If the data consist of several cases, a winding 
approach that moves from one case to another 
may be best. In this approach the researcher gath- 
ers data from one case, interprets it and asks new 
questions based on the interpretation, and then 
moves on to another case in order to find answers 
to these questions or to deepen his or her interpre- 
tations. It is possible to move on to a third case, to 
a fourth case, and so forth, until the most crucial 
and the essential questions of the study have been 
answered. A process-like progression is different 
from the way in which a set of studied units is 
formed in the beginning of the research, and in 
which data are gathered despite the results of the 
different cases. The methods show the idiographic 
nature of a case study in an excellent manner, as 
well as the fact that the researcher and the research 
object interact in a different way than, for exam- 
ple, in a survey. The researcher is a learner, and the 
learning process is the foundation on which the 
data gathering and interpretation are built. 

Conducting a Study, and the 
Critical Points in a Case Methodology 

A researcher who uses a case study method ben- 
efits from the rich store of qualitative methods 
available. Further, the analysis of a case study also 
has particular characteristics that make it unique. 
A researcher and a research object interact inten- 
sively with one another in a case study, and a study 
proceeds as a process, from one stage to the next. 
The cornerstones include the following: (a) Selecting 
the case study objects, (b) ensuring entrance to the 
case site, (c) outlining the theoretical frame as a 
foundation of the study, and (d) data gathering, 
processing, and analyzing. These are not only the 


Case Study as a Methodological Approach 

Table I Application possibilities of a case study 

One Case 

Several Cases 

Cross-sectional data An internal tension in a setting for 

research; comparing dimensions as a 
research object 

Longitudinal data 

Comparing the cases on the selected 

Studying change in the selected dimensions Comparing changes between the cases on 

the selected dimensions 

practical questions but also the factors affecting 
the validity and reliability of the study, and they 
are significant when evaluating whether the 
researcher has actually studied the phenomenon he 
or she intended to study, and whether the conclu- 
sions have been drawn in a reliable manner. The 
research object is a phenomenon, such as cultural 
change in a company. An object phenomenon itself 
can be approached through various research set- 
tings and theoretical emphases. During the research 
process the phenomenon can be framed, for exam- 
ple, so that the unit that will be analyzed consists 
only of the ideals of the management style, guiding 
principles on how to do the work, and the evalua- 
tion of work considered important by the firm's 
personnel — as in the 1991 study by Iiris Aaltio- 
Marjosola. The research data are interpreted in a 
way that simplifies the change of the organiza- 
tional culture through these ideals. 

In principle, the research problem and the 
research questions determine the methodology 
and the methods with which the phenomenon is 
approached. They determine the typical company 
or organization for that particular study, or a spe- 
cial case and the phenomenon to be examined to 
the fullest. Also, the number of cases studied 
depends on the research questions. Studied cases 
are often found through the researcher's own net- 
work. For example, he or she may have worked 
as a trainer or a consultant and may draw on 
organizations that he or she knows well. It is 
important to have the whole organization's sup- 
port, in addition to the support of the manage- 
ment and perhaps of the owners, and here prior 
knowledge and association with the organization 
can be of great help. 

From the beginning it is important to agree on 
the responsibilities between the researcher and the 
management of the organization, especially on how 

personnel are informed about the research. It is 
characteristic of a case study that the researcher 
and the organization studied are in close contact 
with each other, usually for several weeks and 
sometimes even for years. It may be useful to name 
a contact person inside the organization who will 
help with the interview schedule and in finding 
required documents. Building a good relationship 
with the organization, as well as maintaining it, is 
important for the researcher using a case study 
method. Changes in personnel or management may 
occasionally change the schedule. For example, the 
management or the ownership of the company may 
change during the research process, and in such 
situations it may be important to prove the com- 
mitment of the previous management or the owners 
to the study, through contracts, minutes, or other 

Building and maintaining trust between the 
researcher and the study's target company is at 
least as important, if not even more important, 
than formal arrangements. Occasionally one hears 
about cases in which changes in ownership pre- 
vented the researcher from releasing some of 
the most important findings of the research. 
Nevertheless, the characteristics of a case study, 
that is, its process-like nature, long duration, and 
close contact with the studied company, make a 
project rather different from the typical survey 
study, in which the data are gathered in an agreed 
manner and the analysis is done outside the com- 
pany. The researcher gathers, interprets, and ana- 
lyzes case study data during the course of the case 
study, and depending on the findings, prepares the 
next stage in a way that gives additional informa- 
tion about the studied phenomenon. 

In a case study, it is at least as important to 
choose a theoretical frame with specific literature, 
as it is in any research using a qualitative approach. 

Case Study as a Methodological Approach 71 

A conceptual frame gives the material a focus, with 
the help of which rich and varied data can be con- 
trolled by the researcher. Some form of limitation 
in terms of such things as time frame is necessary 
in every research setting; otherwise the data gath- 
ered in a case study may turn out to be too exten- 
sive and unwieldy. The study's focus and question 
formation need to be reasonably well developed 
when the researcher first contacts the target com- 
pany, as does the linkage to prior concepts and 
research results. However, even though a focus is 
useful, it is also useful to retain the researcher's 
open-mindedness for learning, which is character- 
istic of case study. Occasionally, a case study has 
surprising results, a prior paradigm is seen in a dif- 
ferent light, or the study reveals a paradox with 
respect to prior knowledge. Understanding the 
internal dynamics of the research object, to which 
the case study methodology gives opportunities, 
gives space for various results. 

Hartley's work provides illustrative examples of 
gathering data based on a case study. A researcher 
is often uncertain of how to begin, who to inter- 
view, which documents to read, and which meet- 
ings to follow. At first the researcher may create a 
general picture of the organization and its struc- 
ture, and conduct a few interviews to gain some 
level of orientation. These will help to clarify and 
specify the sources required for the research. For 
example, the work rhythms, organizational pres- 
sures, and their occurrence that are characteristic 
of a particular company may be seen in these pre- 
liminary chartings. These pieces of information 
will prove to be helpful when outlining the inter- 
view schedule. Also, the most important people 
and research methods for conducting the research 
become clearer. Triangulation may also increase 
the reliability of the study. 

Gathering the research data requires systematic 
behavior, and the researcher should ask whether 
enough informants have been interviewed for the 
study, or if other respondents with a different per- 
spective are needed, and why. Should there be 
more data for a specific assumption or a conclu- 
sion? Sometimes people who have resigned from 
the company may give significant information that 
is needed in order to understand a specific crisis 
and to gather alternative viewpoints of the situa- 
tion. Ad hoc data can sometimes come up in situ- 
ations such as an accidental meeting in a coffee-room 

or in a hallway, and create new ideas for continu- 
ing the study or for throwing new light on the 
researcher's current interpretations. Therefore, it is 
good for a researcher to leave room for flexibility 
and surprise: Intuition has an important place in 
case study research. 

How extensive should the research data be? 
There are expenses in the process of data gather- 
ing, both temporal and economic. Gathering 
the data, as well as recording them, takes time. 
Transcribing recorded interviews, that is, trans- 
forming them from audio to a written form of 
research data that then can be processed in sev- 
eral different ways, should be done as soon as pos- 
sible after interviewing. Glaser and Strauss 
recommend keeping a research journal and writ- 
ing down observational, methodological, and the- 
oretical issues during data gathering. The saturation 
point is reached when an additional interview does 
not bring any significant new data, or the researcher 
feels that the same issues are repeated in the infor- 
mants' speech. 

Data Processing and Conclusions 

The way research data are processed depends on 
the nature of the data. There are computer pro- 
grams for interpreting qualitative data that search 
for regularities in the text and act as an instrument 
for interpretation. A case study usually consists of 
several different types data, sometimes both quali- 
tative and quantitative. The analysis of the research 
data, as well as the data gathering, is done in an 
iterative manner. While the data are being gathered, 
they are also being evaluated, and therefore a par- 
tially theoretical construction is done during the 
gathering stage. Yin's work describes data process- 
ing as a process in which the data are first sorted 
around themes or questions, after which the data's 
suitability for the categories is examined more thor- 
oughly. It may be helpful to use statistics, tables, 
and figures to summarize the data. The categories 
may change after the analysis, if it is realized that 
the results require different interpretation. An indi- 
vidual case, for example, may not fit into any of the 
categories, and this requires reinterpreting all the 
data and probably reformulating the categories. 

The data gathered through case study enable rich 
and varied descriptions. Stories and interview quo- 
tations from the data are very common; especially 

72 Case Study as a Methodological Approach 

in the first stage of analysis they help in simplifying 
the extensive data for further processing. In the later 
stages of processing, the data are further summa- 
rized, and the researcher draws conclusions, for 
which the data are searched. The contextuality of 
case data is an essential foundation for interpreta- 
tion. The data are interpreted with the object of 
understanding the individual case through the ele- 
ments found in its own environment, whether it is 
an economic, a cultural, or a social environment. 

A theoretical frame and a strong conceptual 
foundation are especially important elements of an 
analysis. Case study data and their analyses are 
used by researchers to develop theories on prior 
phenomena by pointing out paradoxes, bringing 
forward new observations gained from the thor- 
ough analysis, and pointing out the varied rela- 
tions between the individual cases and their 
environments. Answers to the research questions 
are not sought in generalization but through inten- 
sive and contextual case observations. 

Case study methodology is sometimes criticized 
because of supposed generalization problems. A 
survey produces data that are analyzed through 
statistical methods with the objective of producing 
data that can be generalized. A causal research set- 
ting is common. In this research setting, the depen- 
dence between the variables is determined from a 
data sample by using the methods of multiple vari- 
ables. However, a survey is also based on the 
researcher's evaluation and interpretation. When 
using a factor analysis the naming of the factors is 
a subjective event, in which both the researcher's 
own consideration and his or her prior knowledge 
and concepts about the studied phenomenon will 
influence the outcome. The interpretations do not 
come "purely" from the data. 

The case analysis does not aim at generalization 
but rather, through the researcher's attempts, to 
understand and interpret the individual cases thor- 
oughly in their own special contexts. The researcher 
examines data about dynamics, mechanisms, pro- 
cesses and internal "regularities," and does so in a 
way that comes closer to the ordinary conception 
of generalization. The objective is to reach concep- 
tions and understanding by moving from the spe- 
cific toward the general. 

The whole concept about the requirement for 
generalization can be criticized. If a state or an 
issue is described on a very general level, the content 

of the description may prove to be extremely 
superficial. The phenomenon dissolves in its gener- 
ality. Instead, understanding a state, process, or 
dynamics on an individual level and in its own 
environment may produce understanding, which 
helps to illustrate a scientifically interesting phe- 
nomenon in a more extensive manner. When con- 
centrating deeply on the problems of the research 
object, the case method may also produce hypoth- 
eses and research ideas for further studies, whether 
they are qualitative or quantitative by nature. 


Example 1: Comparisons Between 
Hospitals and Cooperative Work Societies 

Case study has been commonly used in busi- 
ness economics research when studying firms and 
other organizations, which are administratively, 
economically, and judicially independent entities. 
Case study applies well to the study of organiza- 
tional behavior, also, because the target phenom- 
ena consist of various types of behaviors, which 
are examined in their own environments. A con- 
text, that is, the environment, is a crucial basis 
for interpretations in a case study. The following 
example examines two different dissertations in 
which a case study has an essential role. 

Jari Vuori compares the ward cultures of public 
and private hospitals in a study conducted in 1995. 
The objective of the study is to define the concepts 
of private and public organization and to study the 
mythology behind the conceptions of private and 
public healthcare, as well as to compare healthcare 
in private and public hospitals in order to find 
their idiographic differences. Case study can be 
considered as a method, since the target of the 
comparison consists of the meanings that the per- 
sonnel of two different organizations attach to the 
phenomena of administration, life, death, and 
work. Selected organizations were chosen as exam- 
ples of private and public hospitals so that they are 
relatively similar to one another as far as the size 
and type are concerned. In this respect, case study 
forms a basis for the research. 

Vuori's study is qualitative in nature, and its 
primary data gathering method is in-depth inter- 
views. The data on life and work were gathered in 
interviews as well as completed with question- 
naires and collected stories from the participants. 

Case Study as a Methodological Approach 73 

Nurses and doctors also drew organization maps 
in which they described the social hierarchy of the 
organization from their personal points of view. In 
addition, meeting memoranda and personnel mag- 
azines were analyzed. The question of the differ- 
ences and similarities might be between the ward 
cultures of private and public hospitals was selected 
as the research problem. Further, the objective was 
to discover how valid the myths of private and 
public organizations and healthcare were. An 
existential-philosophical approach was used as a 
methodological background philosophy for the 
method, since the study focused on the contents 
and inner life of the research subjects, and the way 
they gave meaning to their experiences. The study 
concentrated on the meanings that the research 
subjects gave to the studied dimensions. 

The results show that the cultural differences 
between the hospitals were smaller than the prevailing 
myths indicated. Generalizations that public health- 
care would be less oriented to the individual, of lower 
quality, and economically less profitable, proved to be 
untrue in the meanings that the staff had for their 
work. Similarly, the results pointed out that workers 
who had experience in both private and public hospi- 
tals showed varied conceptions, whereas those who 
had worked only in public hospitals tended to think 
"of course private healthcare is better." This is surpris- 
ing and paradoxical. As is typical of case study, this 
result emerged during and out of the research; it was 
not part of the research questions. The study does not 
aim at generalizing the results to the whole hospital 
sector, which would be an insurmountable task, even 
for qualitative research. It does show the dynamics of 
research questions in a way that is typical of case 
study and enables a process-like research in which the 
questions become more and more accurate as they are 
answered during the research process. A conceptual 
frame of reference forms a strong foundation for the 
research. The work includes a thorough examination 
of the selected methodology, study of meanings, and 
the examination of the research on the culture in the 
areas that are important when forming the research 
question. The backgrounds of the studied cases are 
also presented in a way typical of a case study, that is, 
a conceptual analytical examination is done on the 
questions of what public and private healthcare are, 
and how clearly they can be distinguished from one 
another. The studied cases represent both the public 
and private sectors in hospital administration. They 

are used in an attempt to understand the differences 
between these organizational forms on a more general 
level, beyond individual cases. 

Example 2: Employee-Owned 
Firms and Work Cooperatives 

Another interesting case study is Eliisa Tr oberg's 
focus on the "relevance of transaction cost and 
agency theoretical concepts to the management of 
knowledge intensive co-operatives." This study 
examined employee-owned firms and work coop- 
eratives, especially the way in which they have 
been organized, and their organizational culture, 
management, leadership, motivation, and employ- 
ee-owners' commitment to the firm. The target of 
the study consists of four different case compa- 
nies. Existing research shows that work coopera- 
tives are formed in order to minimize transaction 
costs. The study is a comparative case study. 
First, two work cooperatives are compared with 
a similar single-owner business. Second, work 
cooperatives are compared with a limited 
company that is owned by its employees. All of 
these business forms are cooperative enterprises, 
but the administrative structure varies from case 
to case. 

The primary result of the study revealed that 
each work cooperative had a strong organizational 
culture and set of values. Shared values and the 
notion of the work cooperative as a flexible orga- 
nizational form act as the basis of commitment 
and motivation for the workers. The work coop- 
eratives had been established to allow members to 
combine their skills and networks, and to reduce 
the transaction costs of marketing. Worker turn- 
over was low because of the high level of motiva- 
tion and commitment. Passive members were 
identified as those causing problems. In one coop- 
erative, decision making proved to be slow and 
the members had problems reaching a consensus. 
Thus it was felt that a socially integrating manage- 
ment model might reduce these problems, giving 
good results as was the case with another one of 
the studied work cooperatives. 

The researcher substantiates her methodologi- 
cal decisions and the use of case study by stating 
that there have been only a few studies on work 
cooperatives and that constructing a theory by 
examining case companies in an intensive manner 

74 Case Study as a Methodological Approach 

is justified. In addition, the target phenomena of 
the study — culture, socially integrated manage- 
ment, and commitment, as well as their relation 
with the administration — are best studied with an 
intensive case examination. Case study method- 
ology also is emphasized in selecting the cases. 
The selected firms were similar enough to be 
compared. Therefore, the size and the field of the 
companies are important factors, and the 
researcher decided to concentrate on the fields of 
education and consulting. The number and age 
of personnel as well as the geographical location 
of the companies support the comparative nature 
of the cases. Both of the work cooperatives had 
been in business for several years and had 
between 10 and 20 members. The studied firms, 
one of which was owned by the personnel and 
another owned by an individual person, were 
also well matched. 

Example 3: Comparison Between Managerial 
Careers in Information and Communication 
Technology and the Paper Business Sectors 

Pia Heilmann's 2004 study compares careers 
in the information and communication technology 
(ICT) and the pulp and paper industries. The main 
themes of the research are managers' careers in 
Finland, and business sectors that determine 
careers. The purpose is to examine managers' 
careers, and to describe and compare career paths 
between the two most important business sectors 
in Finland: the ICT industry and the pulp and 
paper products industry. 

The main research question of the study is: 
How do managers in ICT and the paper business 
sectors construct their careers? Heilmann was 
interested in examining whether there were any 
commonalities in how managers' careers unfold in 
these different working environments. What are 
the main factors in manager's lives that direct 
their careers? Do they differ depending on the 
business sector? These questions are approached 
with the help of metaphors: career anchors and 
career ladders. 

This research represents a qualitative multiple- 
case study, as outlined in Yin's 2003 work. Two 
business sector cases are compared in the selected 
dimensions. The primary research data were gath- 
ered in 2002 through interviews with 30 managers 

in Finnish ICT and pulp and paper companies. The 
interviews were held in three companies from the 
ICT sector and three companies from the news- 
print industry. The first interviews in each com- 
pany were conducted with directors in order to 
gather basic information concerning the organiza- 
tion and to discover the organizational viewpoint 
to career development. Then, five suitable manag- 
ers in each company were picked with the help of 
company directors. The determining factor in 
selecting interviewees was the varied career devel- 
opment of the engineering managers. Data from 
the focused interviews were analyzed according to 
theme and type. In every interview, a short ques- 
tionnaire on career anchors was also given. Results 
of the questionnaire were analyzed with the Mann- 
Whitney Test. These secondary data complemented 
the interview data. 

Results showed that reflections of a boundary- 
less career are apparent in the ICT sector (see the 
work of Mirvis & Hall). Careers are developed 
without limits and formal hierarchical progression. 
Persons working in the ICT sector are eager to 
develop their competences and care about their 
employability. The career of an ICT manager pro- 
gresses by means of increased competence, as the 
manager is offered new and challenging positions. 
However, the traditional, hierarchical career model 
cannot be rejected for the ICT sector, because 
increased competence often pushes careers upward 
in the hierarchy. The conception of career is more 
relational than hierarchical because the new posi- 
tion is related to the former position and to the 
person's training and work experience. In the ICT 
sector, career paths and particular positions are 
seldom ready-made. Open positions are usually for 
Software Engineers at the starting level in an orga- 
nization. After entering the organization, a person's 
career development is based on interaction between 
the organization and the employee. The course of 
positions is based on the manager's competence. A 
post does not necessarily exist in the organization 
chart where the manager can direct his or her next 
step. Career development is done by formatting 
new duties in interaction with the manager and the 
organization, by giving him or her new opportuni- 
ties and challenges, power, pay, and title. 

Hobbies are an important factor among ICT 
managers when they make decisions concerning 
the area in which they want to pursue education 

Case Study as a Methodological Approach 75 

and to work. In the ICT sector, work and educa- 
tion overlap, whereas in the paper sector full-time 
work begins immediately prior to or just after 
graduation. In this research, the ICT companies 
work mainly on customer software projects where 
software applications are designed, tested, and 
documented. It is a world with deadlines and con- 
tracts to complete. The work done in ICT compa- 
nies has to be integrated with customer schedules 
and regular business hours. There may be several 
unfinished projects continually under way where 
the same person may work as a member of vari- 
ous projects in various capacities. The organiza- 
tions mainly use a matrix organizational structure 
offering flexibility and effective allocation of 
resources. The pressure for change is continuous: 
Changes in technology and tools assume constant 
training and retraining. Working hours are 37.5 
each week, and work is done in the daytime. 
There may be a need for temporary extra hours 
during tight periods, but if overtime work is con- 
tinuous it is a sign that something is wrong in the 
project design and resource planning. Diversity is 
seen for the future of the sector. According to one 
ICT director, reorganizing is going on in the ICT 
business: Some companies will die, some will con- 
solidate, and some will change their business 

An individual's first position is usually found 
through networks or from company homepages. 
ICT sector careers begin with either part-time or 
fixed-time contracts in the position of Software 
Engineer. Most people taking the software devel- 
oper position are undergraduates in technical uni- 
versities working part time during their studies. 

The paper sector, as a part of the forest cluster, 
represents mainly a traditional, hierarchical 
career development format. The organization has 
a formal organization chart that shows all of the 
managerial positions. Managers planning their 
future career development can easily discover 
possible positions in the organization. Vacancies 
are usually announced in internal or external job 
markets. Development of one's own competence 
is also common and desirable in the paper indus- 
try. Managers begin their careers as a specialist in 
some area of the industry and then usually move 
upward toward general management tasks. 

In the paper sector it has been common to 
recruit the children of personnel as summer 

trainees. This makes it possible for individuals 
to become acquainted with the paper business 
for the first time. It is on the basis of this experi- 
ence that many managers become interested in 
the paper sector and aim for technological 
degrees. Studies and work alternate but do not 
overlap. During school terms, students studying 
in the field of pulp and paper production con- 
centrate on their studies; they work only during 
summer holidays. Generally, students in this 
field finish their studies before they start full- 
time work. Careers in the paper sector generally 
begin with thesis work or with the first perma- 
nent position. The first permanent post is gen- 
erally found through an advertisement in a 
newspaper, usually the main national newspa- 
per. The first position is usually as a specialist 
working in a particular, strictly defined area. 
Paper managers construct their career in one 
paper company. Job openings are often 
announced formally on the company's intranet. 
Paper managers expect their tasks to change 
every 5 years. Traditional career thinking is 
strongly in evidence in the paper sector, but 
there can also be seen signs of new career think- 
ing. Managers in the paper industry, for exam- 
ple, assess and develop their own competences 
and follow what happens in the labor market 
outside their own company. 

The researchers noted in the examples above 
applied case study methodology in their own ways 
to the cases discussed. One study has two target 
companies, the other has four; one examines two 
different business sectors. The comparative setting 
becomes easier when the cases are similar by size 
and industry. Also, the theoretical frame is well 
constructed in each study, which gives a solid 
basis for the conclusions drawn. The researchers 
also used interview quotations, case descriptions, 
and detailed individual observations, which is 
typical of a case study. 

Research Ethics 

After the research data have been gathered, 
the researcher leaves the organization after agree- 
ing with the contact person(s) on how and when 
the research report will be delivered to the case 
organization. The personnel may need a different 
kind of report than the management. Feedback 

76 Case Study as a Methodological Approach 

discussions and even seminars concerning the 
research results are also possible. It may be emo- 
tionally challenging for a researcher to leave an 
organization after spending a long time gather- 
ing data and to move on to the more abstract 
research stage, which doesn't have the social 
rewards often received from interviews and par- 
ticipatory observation. Responsibility for the 
organization's future is in the hands of the man- 
agement and the interviewed persons — the 
researcher's responsibility is to carry on process- 
ing and outlining the data, and to move on to the 
conclusions, which should be beneficial to the 
personnel of the case organization. 

The researcher may reveal acts that are 
extremely important for the organization and for 
the interviewed people. Occasionally, researchers 
may find themselves in an awkward situation 
when the organization expects them to give con- 
sulting advice on a difficult situation, for example, 
who should be fired or promoted during a reorga- 
nization. The researcher is committed to use the 
data for research purposes and for the best inter- 
est of the whole company, and therefore it is ethi- 
cally justified to refuse to answer these types of 
questions. The researcher is often asked to deliver 
a summary of the research results to management, 
and sometimes this extends to the employees — at 
least to the people who were interviewed and 
wish to receive it. However, the researcher's role 
differs from that of a consultant, which is also 
evident in that the researcher is not paid for the 

Writing the report itself often leads to many 
ethical questions. The data presented in the study 
should be anonymous; any personal information 
that reveals the source of the data should be 
deleted. If the sources of information have noth- 
ing against it, however, identity information is 
allowed. Names are usually not necessary, just 
background details such as gender or position in 
the organization. Sometimes researchers need to 
be critical, because they found dynamics in the 
organization that are harmful; in that case, good 
research ethics require that these data are shown 
in the study, not concealed. If the researcher has 
signed a confidentiality agreement, this should 
be noted in the study. The researcher is on the 
side of the whole organization, thus the research 
should not serve the interests of a limited group 

of people. Human and individual consideration 
is needed. 

It is both polite and ethical to care about peo- 
ple's feelings during the research process. Good 
interviewing techniques are needed when using the 
case study method. The interviewees should be 
given enough time to think over their opinions, 
they should not be encouraged to be too open in 
the process or be pushed in a way they might 
regret later. When the researcher is able to use mul- 
tiple documents and materials as research data, the 
possible limitations for their use should also be 
considered. It is safe to let someone in the organi- 
zation read the manuscript in order to avoid pos- 
sible difficulties later. 

Research ethics questions are at least as impor- 
tant in case study methodology as in any other 
research approach. These deal with questions of 
establishing the study, writing the study report, 
and, later, using one's own knowledge concerning 
the case. In a case study, the researcher becomes 
more like an insider in the organization com- 
pared to more objectivistic research approaches, 
and the more the researcher is accepted as an 
insider, the more ethical consideration is needed. 

Critical Summary 

Case study methodology can be a rich source for 
understanding the multiple structures that sup- 
port and sustain organizational life and business 
units. Its strengths are in its ability to gain an 
insider's viewpoint during the research process, 
the more in-depth and nuanced findings based on 
that, and in its flexibility in using different meth- 
ods. Its challenges are in the theoretical frame- 
work and in the development of concepts based 
on empirical findings. When these are taken into 
account, fruitful and nuanced research results are 
possible, and through the study it is possible to 
gain an overall and holistic picture of the research 

In addition to the study conduction itself, dur- 
ing the research process the researcher can gain 
a lot of understanding and skill that would not 
be possible using a more distant methodology. 
Ethically, case study research can bridge academic 
research and work-life. 

Iiris Aaltio and Pia Heilmann 

Case Study as a Teaching Tool 


Case Study as a Teaching Tool 

Case studies are commonly used as research tools, 
and the case study method is a distinguished 
instrument for bridging the gap between theory 
and practice in classes. Students learn to apply 
their theoretical knowledge through the case study 
process of diagnosing, deciding, and acting. An 
adequate preparation of the cases and the course 
outline is essential for educational success, with 
consideration of the cases' exemplarity, clearness, 
and practical orientation. The case outline should 
include the presentation of the case and its indi- 
vidual background, the task of researching and 
analyzing information, the process of decision 
making and argumentation, a following (group) 
discussion of the results, and the final comparison 
with practice. For further development of teaching 
cases, more successful criteria-oriented research is 
required, as well as a sustained education and 
training of teachers and lecturers. 

Conceptual Overview 

A Chinese proverb says: "Tell me and I will forget; 
show me and I may remember; involve me and I 
will understand." Based on this idea and the practi- 
cal experiences of Gustav von Schmoller, James 
Spender established the Bureau of Business Research 
at the Harvard Business School, which can be clas- 
sified as the origin of so-called teaching cases. In 
this context, in 1908, the following statement 
(according to Kaiser, 1983) could be found in their 
university calendar: "In the course of Commercial 
Law, the case system will be used. In the other 
courses an analogous method, emphasizing class- 
room discussion in connection with lectures and 
frequent reports on assigned topics — what may be 
called the 'problem method' — will be introduced 
as far as practicable" (p. 12). Since then, teaching 
cases have been an inherent part of the business 
and management curriculum all over the world. 

These cases are characterized by the intention to 
present complex circumstances and problems that 
are close to reality (e.g., from business practice) in 
such a practical way that learners are motivated to 
discuss the particular contents. 

This way of teaching enables learners to apply 
practical problems and circumstances; they are 

required to establish a direct relation between 
these real-world issues and theoretical informa- 
tion. The case consists of a content part followed 
by a question part. There might be just one ques- 
tion or several, depending on the case and the 
subject. The complexity of the cases differs depend- 
ing on the level (undergraduate vs. master's level) 
and the subject. 

An example would be that students read a case 
about a specific start-up company and then have to 
rate the start-up's success using the background of 
their knowledge about start-up success factors. 
Another case may be a detailed market analysis of 
the soap market in one country with the task of 
creating a new brand for a producer of consumer 

Case Study Design 

The goal of teaching cases is that the learner 
has to analyze problems and situations, gather and 
evaluate information, interpret facts, develop alter- 
native solutions, and come to final solutions, alone 
or in a group. Depending on the case and the teach- 
ing outline, the case study may have a given solu- 
tion or the goal may be an open-ended discussion. 

To reach the intended effect for the learners, 
these teaching cases must fulfill certain conditions 
and prerequisites. For this, Bernd Weitz proposes 
three essential criteria: exemplarity, clearness, and 
practical orientation. 

Exemplarity means that the study must exem- 
plify not just an arbitrary and subjective case, but 
also one that is objective, unique, or representa- 
tive. Clearness requires that cases are not trivial; 
on the contrary, they have to make use of all pos- 
sible and appropriate alternatives of illustration 
for a comprehensive understanding. This demands 
holism, traceability, visualization, and supplemen- 
tation with additional information. The last point, 
practical orientation, aims for the highest integra- 
tion of theory and practice for an integrated learn- 
ing process. 

There are certainly more criteria that can be 
taken into consideration; for example, how up to 
date a case study example is. However, the rele- 
vance of any particular criterion depends on the 
individual case and the general teaching goals. 


Case Study as a Teaching Tool 

Teaching Case Process 

To work with case studies in classes, the follow- 
ing general procedure can be proposed: 

♦ Presentation of the case and its background 

♦ Gathering and analyzing information 

♦ Decision making and argumentation 

♦ (Group) discussion of the results 

♦ Comparison with practice 

First, the teacher has to decide whether the stu- 
dents should solve the case on their own, in pairs, or 
within a group. In most instances, group work is rec- 
ommended because this is the most common situa- 
tion in practice. Moreover, personal skills and effective 
group behavior can be further developed as well. 

Within the first phase, learners are confronted 
with the description of the case and its content. They 
read about the case situation, ramifications, and 
persons involved and have to capture the underlying 
problem. It is important that all participants clearly 
understand the contents and the problems, as this is 
the prerequisite for the success of the next phase. 
Ideally, the students have enough time to search for 
the required information on their own. Otherwise, 
the teacher can offer additional information for the 
case solution in advance. Based on the collected 
information, the groups start to analyze the contents 
with regard to the case study questions. 

The process of decision making means that there 
should be more than one possible case solution, pro- 
viding enough space for creative solutions by the par- 
ticipants. After a specific case solution is selected, an 
appropriate discussion of pros and cons and ideas for 
further consequences is required. In concluding, the 
learners have to make an active decision for a certain 
option and support their choice. The bigger the group, 
the more complex this process step can become. 

For traceability, all these phases should be 
recorded in writing, though the procedure may 
vary depending on the specific case. 

The discussion of the results is moderated by 
the teacher. All groups or persons present their 
case solution, including the reasons they arrived at 
this result. The other participants are invited to 
question the presenting team's solution critically 
and to evaluate their results. With this discussion, 
further development of the case can be reached, as 
well as an active integration of all learners. 

Given a particular case outcome, the presenta- 
tions of the group can be compared and accordingly 

discussed. For example, if the real-world out- 
comes of the case are known, the participants 
can learn that some decisions from practice are 
not always the best or obvious solution, but 
rather the result of specific decision processes 
within these companies. Finally, group feedback 
is recommended. 

Critical Summary 

Although there is a long history of using case stud- 
ies in teaching, there is little research on how suc- 
cessful this practice is. Some often-mentioned 
limitations are: 

♦ In most areas, only a small variety of real 
teaching cases exists. 

♦ Companies are unwilling to give insights into 
their processes to the public, as they fear a loss 
of control over know-how or advantaging their 

♦ Creating and working with teaching cases 
requires high involvement of the case author and 
the teacher in class. 

♦ Learners do not accept cases, as they may fear 
having less time for other necessary coursework 
(e.g., exams). 

♦ Lack of experience, both for teachers and 
learners, may prevent them from using teaching 

Nevertheless, teaching cases offer a highly effec- 
tive method for including students in the learning 
process and making a transfer between theory and 
practice. More research is needed regarding the suc- 
cess factors of teaching outlines, moderators, and 
group sizes. Moreover, schools need to offer explicit 
courses for teachers to learn how to deal with cases 
in classes. Then, teaching cases will be an increas- 
ingly integrated part of future education. 

Alexander Brem 

See also Case Study as a Methodological Approach; Case 
Study Database; Case Study Research in Education; 
Chicago School; Experience; Pedagogy and Case 
Study; Reality; Storytelling; Verstehen 

Further Readings 

Carter, K. (1990). Meaning and metaphor: Case knowledge 
in teaching. Theory Into Practice, 29(2), 109-115. 

Case Study Database 


Ellet, W. C. (2007). The case study handbook. 
Columbus, OH: McGraw-Hill Professional. 

Garvin, D. A. (2003). Making the case. Harvard 
Magazine, 106, 56-107. 

Kaiser, F. J. (1983). Die Fallstudien. Theorie und Praxis 
der Fallstudiendidaktik [Case studies: Theory and 
practice of case study didactics]. Bad Heilbrunn, West 
Germany: Klinkhardt. 

Lynn, L. E. (1999). Teaching and learning with cases: 
A guidebook. New York: Seven Bridges Press. 

Moster, M. P., & Sudzina, M. R. (1996, February). 
Undergraduate case method teaching: Pedagogical 
assumptions vs. the real world. Paper presented at the 
Annual Meeting of the Association of Teacher 
Educators, St. Louis, MO. 

Wassermann, S. (1994). Introduction to case method 
teaching: A guide to the galaxy. New York: Teachers 
College Press. 

Weitz, B. O. (2000). Fallstudienarbeit in der 
okonomischen Bildung. Hochschuldidaktische 
Schriften des Institutes fur BWL der Martin-Luther- 
Universitat Halle-Wittenberg. [Case studies in 
economic education (Didactic Papers of the Institute 
of Business and Management). Halle-Wittenberg: 
Martin Luther University. 

Case Study Database 

A case study database is a primary method for 
organizing and warehousing case study data and 
analyses — including notes, narratives, tabular 
material, and documents — in a single space. This 
entry describes the elements of a high-quality 
case study database as well as the four compart- 
ments embedded in most case study databases. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Prescribed by case study methodologist Robert K. 
Yin, a case study database is an increasingly useful 
analytical tool that strengthens the reliability of case 
study research. Although most books on field meth- 
ods have not recognized case study databases as an 
important methodological technique, the failure to 
craft a formal database may be deemed a major 
shortcoming of case study research. Instead of creat- 
ing a case study database to establish a clear audit 
trail, many researchers engaged in case study 
research do show their data separately from 
the final case study report, it is blended into the 

narrative of the report. To offer only case study 
data that is blended with the narrative in the final 
case study report leaves a critical reader with no 
opportunity to examine the raw data that led to the 
case study's conclusions. 

Although there is no uniform approach to estab- 
lishing a case study database, the quality of a data- 
base is evaluated by the extent to which other 
researchers are able to understand how the col- 
lected data support claims made in the final case 
study report through perusal of the database. A 
formal case study database not only enables 
researchers who are not involved in the case study 
project to juxtapose data collected and cited in the 
database with claims made and conclusions drawn, 
but such a database also increases the reliability of 
the overall case study. Thus, to prepare a case study 
database that is reliable and usable for secondary 
analysis, a high level of clarity and specificity 
within the organization of the database is required 
to ensure accuracy of the data and data analysis. 

Compartments Embedded 
in Case Study Databases 

There are four compartments embedded in a case 
study database: notes, documents, tabular materi- 
als, and narratives. Each compartment is described 
in the subsections below. 


Case study notes, the most common compart- 
ment of a case study database, are messages derived 
from interviews, observations, and/or document 
analysis completed throughout the case study 
research process. While notes may be generated in a 
variety of ways (e.g., handwritten, typed, or audio- 
tape format), the most convenient way to organize 
and categorize notes is to ensure that they are easily 
understandable and accessible for later examination 
by research and nonresearch team members. 

While there is no precise, systematic way in 
which case study notes must be organized, a com- 
mon technique is to divide notes into the major 
subjects as outlined in the case study protocol. 
Aligning notes with sections of a protocol helps the 
researcher to maintain the level of organization 
necessary to construct a clear and usable case 
study database. While organization and clarity are 
important to achieve for secondary analysis, 


Case Study Database 

researchers need not spend excessive amounts of 
time rewriting case study notes derived from data 
collected. Rather, case study notes should simply 
allow readers not involved in the research process 
to understand how the data support claims and 


Similar to case study notes and other compart- 
ments embedded in the case study database, the 
primary objective of case study documents is to 
make these materials readily retrievable and under- 
standable for subsequent inspection. 

As case study documents are collected through- 
out the research process, one useful way to orga- 
nize documents is to develop an annotated 
bibliography. Such annotations would facilitate 
storage and retrieval so the database can later be 
inspected and/or shared with other researchers 
involved and not involved in the original study. To 
establish further convenience and wider usability 
of the case study data, converting documents into 
portable document format (PDF) copies will make 
for efficient electronic storage. Notwithstanding 
the efficiency of PDF files, researchers are not 
required to trouble themselves with the time and 
storage space associated with the construction of 
electronic documents. 

Tabular Materials 

Some case study researchers interested in orga- 
nizing and storing data for subsequent retrieval use 
tabular materials either collected from the site being 
studied or created by the research team, which may 
represent a third compartment in a case study data- 
base. These materials might include survey or other 
quantitative data and counts of phenomena derived 
from archival or observational evidence. Similar to 
other means of storing data in the case study data- 
base, it may be most convenient and useful to orga- 
nize and store tabular materials in an electronic case 
study database, as opposed to separate documents 
and data filed in separate places. 


A final compartment embedded in most case 
study databases is the construction of narratives — an 
analytical procedure that involves documenting 

the answers to the questions in the case study pro- 
tocol. During the process of writing narratives, the 
researcher needs to cite or footnote relevant evi- 
dence — whether from interviews, documents, 
observations, or archival evidence — when generat- 
ing an answer. While developing narratives in 
response to case study protocol questions facili- 
tates the production of a clear and concise pre- 
liminary analytical process, the narratives may or 
may not need to be included in the final case study 

In short, case study narratives offer researchers 
a method to converge data with tentative interpre- 
tations. The researcher or research team may then 
use the narratives embedded in the case study data- 
base to compose the case study report, and readers 
may be able to understand the sources of evidence 
that directly support the claims and conclusions 
offered in the final report. 

Critical Summary 

Establishing a case study database is a helpful 
technique given the complex and multifaceted 
nature of case study research. While inordinate 
amounts of time should not be devoted to mak- 
ing a case study database professionally present- 
able, the data embedded in each compartment 
should be understandable to researchers involved 
and not involved in the case study. The primary 
characteristic of a quality case study database is 
that citation of data clearly connects to claims 
made in the database as well as in the final 
report. The construction of a case study database 
also establishes a warehouse for subsequent 
cross-case analysis. While the inclusion of a case 
study database in case study research is not 
widely noted in the literature on field methods, 
these databases represent a technique that 
increases the reliability of case study research 
that merits more attention. 

Ryan J. Davis 

See also Case Study Protocol; Complexity; Interviews; 
Narratives; Reliability 

Further Readings 

Yin, R. K. (2008). Case study research: Design and 
methods (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Case Study in Creativity Research 

Case Study in 
Creativity Research 

Creativity refers to the capacity to invent or craft 
novel and useful products that are valued as 
such by a peer group. The term applies to many 
domains of human experience, such as the fine 
arts of painting, sculpture, music, literature, film, 
and theater, and the applied arts of architecture, 
advertising, and mechanical and engineering 
design. Creativity also characterizes many other 
aspects of life such as scholarship, leadership, and 
teaching. Progress of society, which is character- 
ized by the new and useful, can benefit from cre- 
ative citizens though creativity may not always 
lead to positive ends. Hence understanding cre- 
ativity should be of great interest to social scien- 
tists, persons in government, and educators, in 
addition to those who are interested in creativity 
from the standpoint of basic research. While cre- 
ativity is generally understood to characterize 
highly original minds, sometimes referred to as big 
C creativity, the concept can also apply to every- 
day problem solving. The latter may lead to new 
and useful behaviors for an individual but would 
not receive external recognition from a profes- 
sional standpoint. Given the significance of cre- 
ativity to society and individuals, it is natural that 
creativity research is becoming a burgeoning field, 
as represented by several scholarly journals such 
as Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the 
Arts; Creativity Research Journal; and Journal of 
Creative Behavior. 

The Significance of 
Case Study to Creativity Research 

Because creativity is by definition typically associ- 
ated with the unique characteristics or ability of 
an individual and because case study also empha- 
sizes the concept of individual, case study lends 
itself particularly well to addressing the questions 
of creativity research, particularly questions that 
require a wealth of data about a single person or 
created artifact. Foremost among these questions 
is, "What is creativity"? This question breaks 
down into several others: To what extent is cre- 
ativity an innate characteristic that cannot be 
trained? Or conversely, to what extent can or must 

creativity be trained? What are the stages of devel- 
opment that characterize creative behavior? Are 
there stages of creativity that apply equally to 
all domains in which creativity is manifested? Are 
there universal attributes of creativity that charac- 
terize all individuals within a culture or across 
cultures? How can creativity be fostered? What is 
the role of the gatekeepers who admit or reject a 
new work as worthy or not of the term creative} 

Types of Case Study Research in Creativity 

As the concept of individual is central to both cre- 
ativity research and case study, research in creativ- 
ity has benefited and can benefit from case study 
approaches. The cases examined can be creative 
persons, their products, or processes. The data 
may be acquired through interview, archival mate- 
rials (e.g., diaries), analysis of creative works or 
performances, and observation of the process of 
developing the work. The case study approach is 
characterized by the acquisition and interpretation 
of a wealth of data about the individual case rather 
than the administration of personality or problem- 
solving tests to large numbers of individuals. The 
case study, however, can entail both qualitative 
and quantitative data. 

Like other methodologies, case study approaches 
to creativity have strong and weak aspects. For 
example, interviews with creative geniuses have 
the benefit of providing information from a valid 
source; however, the information may entail sub- 
jective bias on the part of either the participant or 
the researcher. Case study approaches that analyze 
the developing work itself can serve to reflect the 
underlying mental operations associated with cre- 
ativity. The focus here can be sketches and revi- 
sions of the same work. Here too, however, 
investigators may be biased to find what they are 
looking for. Simply because one is analyzing some- 
thing inanimate versus something animate does 
not protect against subjectivity. Analyses of auto- 
biographies or biographies of a creative individual 
can also provide a useful source of data, but again 
the source of the information may be subject to 
bias. Finally, case studies have been carried out in 
which individuals are challenged to solve a specific 
problem, where the specific problem is the case. 
The limitation here is that only one problem or a 
limited number are explored. 


Case Study in Creativity Research 

Howard Gruber developed the evolving systems 
approach (ESA) to address the need for direct 
study of the creative process of eminent individuals 
in an appreciation of the complexities of an indi- 
vidual's entire life. The approach arose from 
Gruber's earlier extensive study of the writings of 
Charles Darwin as well as interviews with Jean 
Piaget. ESA focuses on the case of the exception- 
ally creative individual in order to understand the 
nature of the creative process. It has six features: 

1. It is directed to both the creator and the creation 
of the work, rather than to personality and other 
psychometric tests. 

2. The investigator must have sophistication in the 
domain of the creation and creator being studied. 

3. Sufficient original material (as in available 
sketches, diaries, letters, interviews) must be 
available to permit the exploration. 

4. Within an overall holistic approach, focus is 
placed on meaningful part processes such as 
imagery, metaphor, and problem-solving that 
make up the whole. 

5. It aims to create the dimensions of significance 
for describing the creative process and 
characteristics rather than checking off traits 
from a list. 

6. It conceives of the case as evolving and 
nonhomeostatic, allowing for the influence of 
external factors over time, such as changes in 
societal views. 


ESA has been applied to the lives and works of 
Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, and Michael 
Faraday, for example, and has helped to demystify 
their creative processes while preserving the unique- 
ness of the experience and contribution of each 
individual. As pointed out by Doris Wallace, a col- 
laborator of Howard Gruber, this type of analysis 
emphasizes the genius of each creator within mul- 
tiple contexts of work as a whole and in the context 
of the body of work, the professional milieu, family 
and personal life, and the sociohistorical period. 

A somewhat less comprehensive, more quantita- 
tive case study approach taken by psychologist 
Robert Weisberg has focused on obtaining quanti- 
fiable data, such as the time between initial practice 

in a domain and the success of the first creative 
work. As a specific example, the first concerto of 
Mozart's that can be regarded as his own composi- 
tion, and not based on the work of other compos- 
ers or his father, came about nearly 10 years after 
his commencement of instruction. An analysis of 
Mozart's scores, including original music manu- 
scripts with the annotations and handwriting of 
either Mozart or his father, supports the observa- 
tion. Similar information regarding the timing of 
Picasso's highly regarded artwork, or even the 
Beatles' period of initial popularity in the 1960s, 
arises through the same case study approach. Such 
an approach that collects data systematically before, 
during, and after a creative act of interest can 
reveal that apparent sudden popularity has actually 
a gradual onset involving hundreds of hours that 
comprise years of dedicated practice. Thus the case 
study data gathered for creativity research may 
either support a view that the creative process and 
disposition to originality is inborn or support the 
alternative view that the creative process depends 
on 10 years of dedicated practice. The case study 
approach will also emphasize the importance of 
exposure to ideas available to the creator that may 
account in large part for a discovery or break- 
through that received recognition. 

Weisberg's case study of Thomas Edison, for 
example, emphasizing the importance of timing and 
chance events, could take into account his early 
experience with scientific experimentation and the 
profession of telegraphy that ultimately provided 
him with the background required to invent the 
phonograph. Given the similarity in principle 
between the phonograph and the motion picture 
recorder, experience with the phonograph privi- 
leged Edison's position as the inventor of the motion 
picture camera, as compared to the position of 
Alexander Graham Bell, an inventor who lacked a 
critical piece of information. As much as Bell might 
have imagined such as thing as a motion picture 
camera, he lacked some critical experience that was 
required to solve the problem of how to do it. Here 
the case study, as carried out by Weisberg, focuses 
on the time course of activities and emphasizes the 
reliance on extensive training and the availability of 
useful information that together lead to highly 
regarded creative outcomes. 

Having an even greater emphasis on quantifica- 
tion of data is the historiometric analysis developed 

Case Study in Creativity Research 


by Keith Simonton applied to all the works of an 
individual author, playwright, poet, or composer. 
As an example, Simonton developed a popularity 
measure for the 37 plays of William Shakespeare 
based on such factors as the frequency of stage 
performances, the number of complete audio 
recordings, and the number of scholarly critiques. 
He aligned these scores and their rankings with the 
estimated composition date. From these data he 
was able to show which external (e.g., historical or 
biographical occurrences) and internal (themes of 
the work) factors led to the eminence of the dra- 
matic work. A similar approach to determining 
popularity was taken in analyzing the 154 
Shakespearean sonnets. Further analysis of the 
style and word choice within these popular exam- 
ples helped to reveal the essence of Shakespeare's 
creative genius, for example, in designing the rhym- 
ing couplet to tie together the loose ends of the 
preceding lines without adding surprising or 
unusual words. The case, then, begins with 
Shakespeare but ends with analysis of particular 
outstanding examples of his work. 

Another case study approach to creativity 
research has focused on detailed analysis of succes- 
sive recordings of the preparation for a profes- 
sional performance. Primary investigator Roger 
Chaffin audio-recorded all practice sessions of 
professional pianist Gabriela Imreh, who was 
learning the Italian Concerto of Johann Sebastian 
Bach with the aim of making a professional record- 
ing of the piece. In a longitudinal case study of 
more than 50 practice sessions during a period of 
approximately 40 weeks, the attention of the artist 
shifted from one type of performance cue to 
another, as indicated to Chaffin through introspec- 
tive report. The later sessions contained increas- 
ingly polished performances and revealed variations 
that would be regarded as creativity. The varia- 
tions were adaptive to the particular contingencies 
arising at each rehearsal, and suggested that the 
creativity of the performer is activated with every 
serious practice or performance session. 

Creativity in performance arts such as music, 
ballet, or theater can focus on either the creativity 
of the performer or the creativity of the composer, 
the choreographer, or the author of the script. 
There are several case study methods for exploring 
this talent. Examination of sketches may entail 
looking for subtle differences between inks, for 

example, so as to determine what ideas were 
notated first, and how the ideas changed. In the 
musical realm, many composers, including 
Beethoven, have left sketches behind. Although 
these are sometimes almost illegible, music schol- 
ars have assessed these works for clues about the 
composer's creative process. One such project on 
Beethoven sketches has been carried out by William 
Kinderman of the University of Illinois, while a 
more contemporary resource of 20th-century musi- 
cal sketches has been published by Patricia Hall 
and Friedemann Sallis. Such material complements 
other historiographic or biographical data and 
provides a picture of the creative act and person. 

In searching for universal dimensions of creativ- 
ity, a case study approach was taken by David 
Cropley and Arthur Cropley in which teams 
from a class of engineering students were presented 
with a creative problem-solving task — that of 
designing a system using only a mousetrap to move 
a wheeled vehicle a fixed distance. The authors 
graded the outcomes in accordance with a set of 
indicators (relevance and effectiveness, generation 
of novelty, elegance, and genesis) and kinds of 
products (routine, original, elegant, and generic) 
that had a variety of possible effects on the 
beholder (e.g., redefinition enables the beholder to 
see new uses for a familiar object). The most 
original out-of-the-box solution met all the criteria 
of creativity, but the authors suggest the impor- 
tance of case studies from many other fields such 
as foreign languages, history, mathematics, and 
physics so as to validate the universality of the 
dimensions. It should be noted that concepts of 
creativity can be applied to both the extraordinary 
genius and the ordinary person, the distinction 
referred to by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as big C 
creativity versus little c creativity. Thus case studies 
of creativity can be carried out with children and 
with ordinary adults, although the focus might be 
regarded as being on problem solving, or in the 
example of children, as precreativity rather than 
creativity as it is most often understood. 

Critical Summary 

Because both creativity research and the case study 
emphasize the individual, the case study method 
lends itself well as a tool for collection and analysis 
of the rich data required for creativity research. 


Case Study Protocol 

The cases in such studies can refer to the creative 
individual, the created product, the process of cre- 
ation, and the problem to be solved. They are not 
mutually exclusive and, ideally, the study will 
include all of these. Within this area of research, 
there are numerous ways of exploiting the case 
study methodology, each having strengths such as 
obtaining a vast amount of data, and weaknesses 
such as the difficulty of retaining objectivity and 
staying focused on the key issue of interest. The 
combination of results from the various methods 
that touch upon the person, product, and process 
thus will lead more quickly to new facts and con- 
ceptualizations than will taking only one of the 
perspectives. The accumulation of data through 
case studies and the appropriate analysis will help 
to determine the nature of creativity and the ways 
of fostering it. The data can be acquired from both 
the creative genius as well as the ordinary person, 
and the knowledge acquired from the research 
may ultimately have application to all individuals. 

Annabel J. Cohen 

See also Archival Records as Evidence; Audiovisual 
Recording; Autobiography; Case Study Research in 
Psychology; Extreme Cases; Longitudinal Research; 

Further Readings 

Arnheim, R. (2006). Picasso's Guernica: The genesis of a 

painting. Los Angeles: University of California Press. 

(Original work published 1962) 
Cropley, D., & Cropley, A. (2008). Elements of a 

universal aesthetic of creativity. Psychology of 

Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, 2, 155-161. 
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the 

psychology of discovery and invention. New York: 

Deliege, I., & Wiggins, G. A. (Eds.). (2006). Musical 

creativity: Multidisciplinary research in theory and 

practice. East Sussex, UK: Psychology Press. 
Hall, P., & Sallis, F. (2004). Handbook of twentieth - 

century musical sketches. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge 

University Press. 
Kaufman, J. C, & Baer, J. (2005). Creativity across 

domains: Faces of the muse. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence 

Kinderman, W. (Ed.). (1992). Beethoven's compositional 

process. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 

Simonton, D. K., Taylor, K. A., & Cassandro, V. J. 

(1998). The creative genius of William Shakespeare: 

Historiometic analyses of his plays and sonnets. In 

A. Steptoe (Ed.), Genius and the mind: Studies of 

creativity and temperament. New York: Oxford 

University Press. 
Wallace, D. B. (Ed.). (2005). Education, arts, and 

morality: Creative journeys. New York: Kluwer 

Wallace, D. B., & Gruber, H. E. (Eds.). (1992). Creative 

people at work: Twelve cognitive case studies. New 

York: Oxford University Press. 
Weisberg, R. W. (2006). Creativity: Understanding 

innovation in problem solving, science, invention, 

and the arts. New York: Wiley. 

Case Study Protocol 

A case study protocol is a formal document captur- 
ing the entire set of procedures involved in the col- 
lection of data for a case study. A complete protocol 
will include the following: (a) The procedures for 
contacting key informants and making field work 
arrangements; (b) explicit language and reminders 
for implementing and enforcing the rules for 
protecting human subjects; (c) a detailed line of 
questions, or a mental agenda to be addressed thr- 
oughout the data collection, including suggestions 
about the relevant sources of data; and (d) a pre- 
liminary outline for the final case study report. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

The desired protocol should cover the range of 
behaviors to be followed by case study investiga- 
tors throughout their field work and their interac- 
tions with those being studied. In this sense, a 
protocol is broader than a data collection instru- 
ment, which may be limited to the line of questions 
(as in a survey instrument) or to measures (as in an 

When and How to Use a Case Study Protocol 

Case study investigators need to develop their 
protocols in at least two stages: a preliminary stage 
and a final stage. The preliminary stage occurs 
after the case(s) to be studied have been screened 

Case Study Protocol 


and selected and after any pilot case study has been 
conducted. Those earlier steps may themselves 
have been the subject of formal documentation 
and procedures, but the steps should have been 
completed before drafting the preliminary case 
study protocol. 

The preliminary protocol, though still reflecting 
tentative plans and ideas, should nevertheless be 
contained in a formal document. Case study inves- 
tigators will need this document as a central part 
of their submission to their institutional review 
board (IRB). The IRB will review the protocol in 
approving the entire case study research project. 
Because the IRB will ascertain whether the planned 
case study will satisfactorily follow all of the neces- 
sary procedures for protecting the human subjects, 
IRB approval is mandatory before any research 
can proceed (not discussed here are the related 
documents that investigators will have to submit 
to their IRB). 

The IRB's review may result in changes to the 
case study protocol. The version meeting with 
their final approval then represents the final stage 
of the protocol. This final protocol now contains 
the procedures to be followed in conducting the 
actual case study. 

The preliminary protocol may have been devel- 
oped alone, especially if the case study is to be con- 
ducted by a single investigator. However, if the 
planned case study is to involve more than a single 
investigator, and especially if others are to serve as 
part of the case study's field teams, the preliminary 
protocol should have been jointly produced by all 
these people. Although the lead investigator may still 
draft the bulk of the protocol, the others need to 
understand the protocol thoroughly. Such under- 
standing best takes place if all team members have 
had an opportunity to contribute to its development. 

Such familiarity with the preliminary protocol 
will be carried into the formal training process that 
then takes place with the final protocol. When two 
or more people are to be involved in doing the case 
study, the preferred case study training assumes the 
form of a working seminar, with participants dis- 
cussing the contents of the protocol, their implica- 
tions in relation to the case study's line of inquiry, 
and the relevant evidence bearing on the line of 
inquiry. The training process therefore becomes 
the opportunity for all of a case study's investiga- 
tors and field team members to develop the same 

collective understanding of the inquiry to be 
undertaken. Naturally, if the case study has only a 
single investigator, the training will assume the 
form of a self-study. 

Whether seminar or self-study, the case study 
protocol should ensure that case study investigators 
have a deep understanding of the substance of the 
case study. This goal differs from that when using 
other methods, such as surveys and experiments, 
when some of the team is likely to include research 
assistants who may need only limited knowledge of 
the content of the research. In this sense, satisfac- 
tory mastery over the case study protocol requires 
all of the investigators to become "senior" investi- 
gators. Such a level of expertise is needed to cope 
with the discretionary choices that may arise during 
the process of collecting the case study data. 


A typical case study protocol might have five sec- 
tions. Section one would briefly overview the case 
study, its main research questions, the case(s) to be 
studied, and the broad data collection strategies. The 
overview also could clarify whether the case study is 
to be part of a larger, multiple methods study, and if 
so, the main goals of the broader study. 

Section two of the protocol should describe how 
the case study team will contact key informants, 
make field work arrangements, and specify other 
procedures to be followed throughout the data col- 
lection process. The importance of making all of 
these steps explicit is that every case study is likely 
to have unique procedural needs. The ensuing 
research will be more reliable if the procedures can 
be anticipated and then documented in the protocol. 
The descriptions may include specifically scripted 
words or instructions for team members to use. 

Section three of the protocol should discuss the 
specific concerns to be raised and monitored in 
protecting human subjects. The section again may 
include specifically scripted words or instructions 
for the team to use in obtaining informed consent 
or otherwise informing case study interviewees and 
other participants of the risks and conditions asso- 
ciated with the research. The discussion of the 
concerns and the presentation of the scripted words 
need to follow any guidelines issued by the IRB. 

Section four of the protocol is its most substantive 
section. The section may be divided into subsections, 

Case Study Research in Anthropology 

each representing a major part of the case study 
inquiry. In turn, each subsection should consist of a 
series of questions to be investigated by the case 
study team. These questions are to be part of the 
team members' mental agenda. 

The questions in section four are not the ques- 
tions to be posed to case study key informants or 
other interviewees as if they were the respondents in 
a survey. In this sense, these questions do not repre- 
sent scripted words. On the contrary, the protocol's 
questions are directed at the case study team, posing 
a query for which the team is to gather evidence. 
Each question may be accompanied by a brief list of 
hypothesized sources of evidence for answering the 
question, including clues about identifying the rele- 
vant sources. For instance, the list may direct team 
members to specific participants to be interviewed, 
specific documents to be accessed, or specific field 
observations to be made. 

Overall, team members need to learn the mate- 
rial in section four as thoroughly as possible. 
Adding to this chore can be another feature of sec- 
tion four which is anticipating the data collection 
choices that might emerge during field work, and 
conjecturing how such choices might be addressed 
and settled. Whether the protocol formally contains 
this information or not, the case study training 
should include a careful discussion of the choices. 

Section five of the protocol should then present 
a tentative outline of the final case study report. 
Although the substantive contents will not be 
known at this juncture, an outline indicating the 
relative emphasis to be given to the various topics 
in section four will provide important guidance 
for data collection. For instance, if the case study 
report is to contain a detailed chronology of the 
important events in a case, team members will 
need to collect more data about this topic even if it 
had been represented by only a single question in 
section four. Conversely, section four might have 
had several items covering the formal organization 
of the case being studied (as in studying an organi- 
zation), but the main reporting need might only be 
a carefully constructed organization chart. 

Critical Summary 

When engaged in case study research, the develop- 
ment and use of a case study protocol is impera- 
tive. A well-designed protocol will define questions 

of study, remind researchers about field proce- 
dures, and identify data to be collected. Most 
important, the protocol should explain the rela- 
tionship between the questions of study and the 
data to be collected. If needed, important adjust- 
ments to the case study protocol can be made 
throughout the field work. Key to understanding 
a case study protocol is that it is not a field instru- 
ment. The protocol's language is directed at the 
researchers involved in the case study, not poten- 
tial interviewees or field informants. Thus, the 
protocol is not to be carried around in a physical 
sense but as a plan held in the researcher's head. 

Robert K. Yin 

See also Anonymity and Confidentiality; Field Notes; 
Field Work; Mental Framework; Reporting Case Study 

Further Readings 

Yin, R. (2009). Case study research: Design and methods 
(4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Case Study Research 
in Anthropology 

Case study research in social/cultural and linguis- 
tic anthropology consists of intensive periods of 
ethnographic field work, which are then written 
up and analyzed. Such case studies, termed eth- 
nographies, are central to anthropology as a disci- 
pline. This entry considers the definition, origins, 
and history of the case study in anthropology; the 
impact of this particular type of case study on the 
discipline; some controversies surrounding it; and 
its wider application. 

Definition and Formulation 

It is difficult, in anthropology, to find an exact 
definition of ethnography, and there is much dis- 
agreement about what exactly an ethnography 
constitutes. Broadly speaking, it can be defined as 
"the art and science of describing a group or cul- 
ture," which involves the ethnographer writing 
about the routine, daily lives of people. Alternatively, 

Case Study Research in Anthropology 


it could be defined as studying behavior in every- 
day contexts, engaging in "unstructured" (although 
not unsystematic) data collection, using a small 
number of cases, and analyzing these through inter- 
preting the meaning of human actions. Ethnography 
can also be said to be characterized by "natural- 
ism"; that is, understanding naturally occurring 
human behavior in context as opposed to through 
artificial settings or structured interviews. While 
this sort of research technique is also found in other 
disciplines, such as sociology, it is not as central to 
other disciplines as it is in anthropology. 

The lack of structure, and the focus on particu- 
lar cultures, may explain the difficulty of defining 
ethnography. The nature of the study is guided by 
its specific research problem, techniques, duration, 
budget, and theoretical underpinning. Furthermore, 
ethnography is unique in that the researcher and 
his or her identity become basic parts of the 
research process itself, and yet, a balance must be 
achieved between maintaining enough involvement 
to get the sense of life in the culture under study, 
and maintaining an objective distance for the pur- 
pose of analysis. The ethnographer's personal expe- 
riences effectively become central to the research 
process, but are restrained by the impersonal stan- 
dards of observation and, to the extent that it is 
possible, objectivity. Many, however, would argue 
that the lack of agreement on the nature of ethnog- 
raphy is one of its greatest strengths, giving it a 
degree of flexibility and richness. 

The anthropological case study is also expected 
to develop a balance between the emic (insider's) 
and etic (outsider's) perspectives on the culture 
under study. Again, however, there is much varia- 
tion in the degree to which each is favored. While 
some ethnographers focus upon obtaining an objec- 
tive approach, of chronicling events and behaviors, 
others argue that the key to ethnography is in con- 
veying the insider's perspective on his or her own 
culture to outsiders. In writing terms, ethnography 
is generally characterized by thick description and 
vivid, narrative-style content, with the aim being to 
capture the complexity of human life. 

While the image of ethnographic research that 
frequently emerges in anthropological literature is 
of a rugged, scientific anthropologist immersed in 
the culture under study, the reality is often less 
romantic. It has been noted, principally by Renato 
Rosaldo, that the result of British anthropologist 

E. E. Evans-Pritchard's efforts to edit, as it were, 
the outside world out of his case study of the Nuer, 
in the name of objectivity and of defining the "true 
nature" of Nuer culture, resulted in a kind of con- 
textless image that ignores the historical specifici- 
ties of the time. The belligerence that Evans-Pritchar d 
identifies as typical of the Nuer was, he argues, 
most likely a specific condition inspired by British 
encroachments upon their territory at the time of 
Evans-Pritchard's field work. Most anthropolo- 
gists also rely substantially on translators and 
informants with an unusual social background, 
frequently those used to dealing with outsiders, 
even social scientists. Some researchers also chal- 
lenge the notion that anthropologists can truly 
become immersed in the culture they study — or, 
indeed, whether this is desirable (e.g., for anthro- 
pologists studying criminal subcultures). While 
immersion in the field is desirable, the degree to 
which this immersion is possible, or conveyed in 
research, varies. 

There is also some disagreement over what the 
overall purpose of this type of case study should 
be. Ethnography developed under a functionalist 
paradigm, where it was seen as a way of ascertain- 
ing the fundamental nature of social organization, 
norms, values, and so forth. More recently, many 
anthropologists consider that their main role 
should be cultural interpretation, or the ability to 
explain the practices, beliefs, and frameworks of 
reality of a given culture from its point of view. 
Some researchers argue that, in the absence of set 
criteria, ethnographies should be assessed in terms 
of their naturalism, their validity (i.e., how "true" 
the account is), and their relevance to social issues 
and scientific research more generally. 

Historical Development 

Genesis of Ethnography: 1600-1921 

While it may be argued that anthropological 
case studies date back to the 17th and 18 th centu- 
ries in the form of reports by missionaries and 
traders on native peoples, at the time that anthro- 
pology was established as a discipline in the 19th 
century, anthropologists were not generally sup- 
posed to go into the field themselves, but to ana- 
lyze the data gathered about other cultures by 
colonial officials, missionaries, professional eth- 
nographers, and so forth. Toward the end of the 

Case Study Research in Anthropology 

19th century, however, more intensive field work 
began to be done by anthropologists themselves. 
Franz Boas, for instance, did a full year's field 
work among the Inuit in 1883-1884, and spent 
about 40 years, off and on, working with the 
Kwakiutl. Boas was unusual in this, however, and 
considered ahead of his time. Another exception is 
the 1898-1899 Haddon expedition to the Torres 
Straits, which differs from the modern norm in 
being a team effort comprising a number of 
researchers who had a relatively short period of 
time to do their research. Intensive field work was 
not practiced by many of the key figures in 19th- 
century anthropology. 

Development: 1922-1969 

Bronislaw Malinowski is often cited as the 
"founder" of the profession of social anthropology, 
for his establishment of the focus on intensive field 
work in an exotic community as a central defining 
facet of the discipline. Malinowski's own account 
of his experience is that he had planned on doing 
short-term field work in Australia, but, due to the 
outbreak of World War I, he wound up exiled to 
the Trobriand Islands for several years (due to hav- 
ing enemy alien status) and discovered that through 
intensively involving himself in the culture, he was 
able to develop more rich and comprehensive 
accounts of the Trobriand Islanders' practices than 
earlier anthropologists had achieved. The reality 
involved rather more planning than this, however, 
as Malinowski already had some theories about the 
benefits of long-term field work before this, and 
ethnographies based on sources other than inten- 
sive field work with a single community continued 
to be considered acceptable. Nonetheless, the prac- 
tice of ethnography rapidly became popular, ulti- 
mately proving central to the discipline. 

Modern and Postmodern Ethnography: 

In the 1970s and 1980s, critiques were leveled 
at the concept, principally accusing anthropolo- 
gists of colonialism and of exploiting peripheral 
groups. As James Clifford put it, in popular imag- 
ery the ethnographer changed from a sympathetic, 
authoritative observer to an ambitious social scien- 
tist making off with tribal lore and giving nothing 

in return. Anthropologists also began to question 
whether it is possible for ethnographers to remain 
neutral, detached observers, and to what degree 
research can be influenced, consciously or uncon- 
sciously, by the researcher's bias and mind-set (e.g., 
Derek Freeman's 1983 critique of Margaret Mead's 
classic studies of Samoa). This led to the develop- 
ment of the postmodern movement in ethnogra- 
phy, aimed at critiquing the format and nature of 
the case study, and taking into account the research- 
er's own identity, issues, and so forth, such that it 
is clear that all accounts contain bias and that the 
researcher's position may not be that of the people 
being described in the ethnography. 

In the 1980s and 1990s, the postmodern move- 
ment in anthropology questioned the nature of eth- 
nography, whether it is a form of scientific analysis 
or simply of literature/literary criticism, or even auto- 
biography. A controversial case in the 1980s involved 
the novel Shabono, initially presented as a real mem- 
oir of a European's life with the Yanomamo tribe of 
South America, but later proved to be a fiction. 
Nevertheless, the piece was so well researched and 
factually accurate that it suggested that one could 
produce a convincing and accurate ethnography 
without living in the culture under study, thus chal- 
lenging the claims of some anthropologists that eth- 
nography possesses a particular kind of " authenticity. " 
Many studies also argued for an awareness of the 
limiting factors of anthropological data-gathering 
techniques. Also controversial was the fact that 
many researchers were doing work with transna- 
tional groups, in which a traditional field study is not 
possible, and researchers must adapt their methods, 
for instance doing a multi-sited study or adopting the 
transnational lifestyle of the informants as much as 
possible. This, however, incurred critiques from oth- 
ers questioning what the anthropological endeavor 
should involve, whether there was anything new in 
the postmodernists' arguments, and whether anthro- 
pology would not be better served by an increase in 
reflexivity (i.e., researchers maintaining a continual 
awareness, when doing research, of their own inter- 
ests and biases, and of the context in which they are 
operating) and academic rigor instead. 


It is worth considering some of the major types of 
anthropological case study: 

Case Study Research in Anthropology 


• The traditional descriptive ethnography, 
consisting of a description or exploration of a 
whole culture or subculture, usually considering 
as many aspects of the culture's or subculture's 
organization as possible. This approach is 
comprehensive, but is usually found in early to 
mid-20th-century anthropology. A prime 
example is Edward E. Evans-Pritchard's The 

• The focused descriptive ethnography, which is 
similar to the first but focuses on a single aspect 
of it (kinship, adolescence, visual arts, etc.), such 
as Evans-Pritchard's Witchcraft, Oracles and 
Magic Among the Azande. 

• The event study or incident study, in which the 
focus is on a single event or incident; the analysis 
usually focuses on what that single incident can 
reveal about the wider society. Many linguistic 
anthropological studies are of this kind. 
Examples include Audrey Richards's Chisungu, 

a study of a girls' initiation ritual. 

• The microethnography, sometimes taking the 
form of a life history, focusing on presenting a 
single informant (or one or two informants) and 
understanding their society through them; this 
was popular among postmodernist 
anthropologists. Examples include Marjorie 
Shostack's Nisa: The Life and Words of a IKung 

• The meta-ethnography , in which the 
ethnographic experience itself is taken as a case 
study, with the anthropologist and his or her 
experiences as research subject. One example is 
Elenore Smith Bowen's Return to Laughter. 

While it is difficult to determine precisely what 
defines the case study method in anthropology, 
then, one can identify particular genres and tech- 
niques within it, allowing one to generalize to 
some extent about the method and its influence. 

Methodological Implications 

Although there is general agreement on the elements 
of ethnographic field work, the interpretation of these 
elements is more varied. While participant observa- 
tion is usually seen as the main basis of ethnographic 
work, it can be, and usually is, augmented by the use 
of audiovisual equipment, interviews, collection of 
cases, genealogies, quantitative surveys, and so forth, 

and, more recently, by online work. Despite this, par- 
ticipant observation is still regarded as crucial, relat- 
ing as it does to the anthropologist's ability to observe, 
experience, and analyze these experiences according 
to a particular critical framework. 

Again, however, the nature of this participant 
observation can vary. While many popular and 
academic guides to doing field work emphasize 
that the researcher should be a stranger to the 
group, ethnography can be conducted by people 
who are already members or partial members of a 
group; for instance, former schoolteachers doing 
studies of classroom activity. Ethnographers also 
may not live directly among the people under 
study. Margaret Mead, for instance, lived with an 
American naval family near the village that was 
the subject of her research, and Michael Agar 
argues that his field work among drug addicts in 
New York is as much an ethnography as his earlier 
"traditional" field work among farmers in India, 
even though it would have been highly dangerous 
for him to actually live with the drug addicts or 
share their lifestyle; consequently his participant 
observation was limited to visiting with his inter- 
viewees as an explicit outsider to the community. 

It is generally agreed, however, that maintaining 
a sense of reflexivity and context is essential, situ- 
ating the observer in the field and considering his 
or her social identity. It is also important that eth- 
nographic studies carry with them a sense of con- 
text, intellectual and otherwise. Martin Harris, for 
instance, notes that pioneering anthropologist 
Meyer Fortes's conclusion that the Tallensi were an 
acephalous society (i.e., a society without leaders) 
in fact stems from his failure to consider that these 
people had been defeated and dispersed by the 
British, and that under normal circumstances they 
had a more recognizable leadership structure. 
Ethnographers thus must situate themselves and 
their informants in context to as great a degree as 
is possible while still maintaining confidentiality. 


A number of critiques of ethnography have been 
raised from within the discipline over the years. To 
begin with, the technique has been accused of lead- 
ing to a false sense of scientific generalizability, as in 
the well-known case of the Human Relations Area 
Files, founded in 1937. These aimed to classify and 


Case Study Research in Anthropology 

organize cultures around the world based on kin- 
ship systems, economic organization, and so forth, 
in a large database from which general conclusions 
could then be drawn. The problem was that this 
frequently led to drawing false and meaningless 
parallels and ridiculous generalizations, as human 
culture is not so easily classified. Some have argued, 
on the other hand, that the lack of scientific gener- 
alizability is a strength of the discipline. Furthermore, 
societies do not easily lend themselves to the kind of 
decontextualization that facilitates generalization. 
However, a lack of scientific rigor can observably 
lead to a degree of "siloing" among anthropolo- 
gists, where most are experts in only a small area 
and find it difficult to generalize from this area or 
to engage in interdisciplinary work. A balance must 
therefore be struck between generalization and a 
focus on specificities. 

Critiques have also been leveled at the value of 
ethnographic methodology as a scientific tech- 
nique: that by studying small numbers, the case 
study's findings are not generalizable; that study- 
ing behavior in a natural setting rules out the 
researcher keeping control of the variables; and, 
finally, that the case study itself is nonreproduc- 
ible. One might counter these points by arguing, 
first, that anthropology is not about generaliza- 
tion, but about making theoretical inferences (as 
discussed above); second, that ethnographic tech- 
niques can document lived experience in a way 
that experiments cannot; and, third, that repro- 
ducibility isn't always possible in natural science, 
either, nor does it guarantee validity. It is also 
imperative to consider ethical issues, such as the 
researchers' responsibility to their informants, the 
desirability of giving something back to the studied 
community, withholding sensitive information 
from publication, and so forth. 

There is also the issue of researcher bias, given 
the identity-focused nature of ethnographic field 
work. Michelle Rosaldo argues that anthropology 
up until recently, and still, was characterized by 
unconscious biases toward and prejudices against 
women, making the results of most classic studies 
far from objective without anybody realizing it. A 
number of anthropologists, including Ruth Benedict 
and, famously, Margaret Mead, have been accused 
of having massaged the facts to fit the theory being 
tested, or to have had that theory influence their 
perceptions. Emic and etic perspectives can also 

sometimes become confused and difficult to sepa- 
rate. Many guides to ethnographic field work dis- 
cuss strategies for reducing, or at least increasing 
personal awareness of, bias among field-workers. 
This can also lead to the issue of multiple realities, 
or the Rashomon effect, whereby many people in, 
or observing, a society can develop different per- 
spectives on it, leading one to question which is the 
"true" one, or, indeed, if we can speak in such 
terms at all. It is worth noting that, if we reflect 
upon our own culture, we would see that there are 
many perspectives on it as well, raising the ques- 
tion of why we expect other cultures to be different 
in this regard. 

Finally, as noted above, anthropologists are 
often, still, accused of colonialism and/or of per- 
petuating colonialist attitudes through the nature 
of field work. The structure of anthropology still 
frequently involves privileged Westerners observ- 
ing and describing those in non-Western countries 
and/or the underprivileged in Western nations, but 
seldom in reverse (a rare counter example can be 
found in John Ogbu's study of an American inner 
city by a Nigerian anthropologist). Then, further, 
there is also the question of who is the intended 
audience of ethnography? This critique has been 
tempered somewhat in recent years, as it is increas- 
ingly recognized that ethnographic research, even 
in traditional settings, is much more complex than 
this, and the anthropologist may not always be as 
powerful or as privileged in the field as some might 
think. However, academic research is still not 
divorced from geopolitics and accompanying 
power relations. Anthropology thus has to main- 
tain a degree of awareness of the power relation- 
ships that form a subtext to ethnography. 

Impact on Anthropology 

Ethnographic research has had a defining impact on 
anthropology as a discipline, such that the use of 
ethnography is one of the points of identity of a 
modern anthropologist: The discipline is, effec- 
tively, built around a specific form of case study. 
Although quantitative methods are also used by 
anthropologists, even in studies of hunter-gatherer 
societies, they tend to be popularly regarded as a 
secondary activity, and Harris argues that ethnogra- 
phy is crucial to anthropology, noting that the rise 
in anthropology in the 1 9th century was spurred by 

Case Study Research in Anthropology 


an increase in ethnographic material. More recently, 
Nigel Barley refers to anthropologists romanticizing 
the ethnographic experience, noting that when 
Malinowski's diaries were published, many were 
shocked at the revelation that even the father of 
ethnography had felt alienation, frustration, and 
even racism when engaged in his supposedly impar- 
tial and comprehensive studies of the Trobriand 
Islanders. Mary Louise Pratt refers to anthropolo- 
gists defining ethnography in contradistinction to 
older, less specialized genres, such as travel books, 
personal memoirs, and journalism. Ethnography is 
thus the defining trait of anthropology, even though 
anthropologists may use other methods, and other 
researchers employ ethnography. 

The emphasis on ethnography has also shaped 
the discipline in other ways. Anthropology tends 
to focus on qualitative over quantitative evidence, 
and on finding "authentic" voices or experiences, 
with concurrent debate over what, exactly, consti- 
tutes "authenticity." The defining trait of anthro- 
pology might also be said to be a favoring of 
cultural rather than biological explanations for 
human activity, which may also be another artifact 
of the case study focus of the discipline. It has, in 
some ways, also led to the prioritization of a single 
research method above all others. Malinowski 
notoriously strongly advocated the ethnographic 
method to the point where he was deeply critical 
of anyone who practiced less immersive research 
methods, even though "ethnographic fields" are 
themselves artifacts of history, shaped by colonial- 
ism, economics, and, latterly, globalization. 
Furthermore, it means that the personal attributes 
of the researcher take on a significance greater 
than they usually do in most other disciplines, per- 
haps leading to a greater sense of introspection on 
the part of anthropology as a whole. 

This has also led to a fragmentation of the dis- 
cipline. Anthropology, with its divisions into 
gender studies, African studies, Japanese studies, 
Native American studies, and so forth, lacks the 
degree of integration seen in other disciplines with 
similar subdisciplines (e.g., sociology, management 
studies), due in part to the focus on the case study 
as a unique, qualitative experience. This may be 
partially blamed on the difficulty of equating eth- 
nographies on any sort of empirical level, given the 
great degree of variation from case to case. The 
focus on ethnographic case studies thus gives 

anthropology a distinctively flexible, fragmented, 
qualitative character. 

Impact on Other Disciplines 

The anthropological case study method has been 
used to good effect in other disciplines. Sociologists, 
for instance, have been known to make use of it: in 
particular Erving Goffman, who self-identified as 
an urban ethnographer and spent much of his 
career engaged in deep-immersion participant 
observation in, among other things, hospitals, 
mental institutions, and (somewhat controver- 
sially) casinos, with the result that his work is both 
criticized for a lack of quantitative rigor, and cele- 
brated for lateral thinking and innovative takes on 
human behavior. M. Rosaldo also acknowledges 
the contribution that ethnographies can make to 
gender studies through encouraging researchers to 
reinterpret earlier conventional accounts in light of 
gender bias and encourage the development of 
female-focused perspectives. 

The anthropological case study method can also 
yield valuable alternative perspectives on other 
disciplines. Ethnographic work such as Ronald 
Littlewood and Maurice Lipsedge's Aliens and 
Alienists, a study of the cultural biases of psycho- 
therapy have also encouraged revisions, not only 
in the medical profession, but in other empirical 
disciplines as researchers consider the impact of 
social behavior and beliefs on supposedly analyti- 
cal, detached studies. In business studies, the work 
of anthropologists such as Diana Sharpe in con- 
ducting ethnographic studies of corporations has 
encouraged the development of alternative per- 
spectives on the organization to complement and 
develop earlier, quantitative studies along more 
complex lines. Agar notes that, while anthropol- 
ogy may have similarities to psychological analy- 
sis, the more organic, emic perspective of 
anthropology means that there is less reliance on 
labels and categorization. His research into drug 
addict culture helped practitioners understand the 
wider context of addiction rather than simply 
focusing on the disorders of particular individuals, 
thus contributing to psychoanalysis through the 
anthropological case study method. Finally, the 
activities of anthropologists have also had an 
impact on political situations, as they provide 
intellectual justifications for the political and social 


Case Study Research in Anthropology 

claims of groups, minority or otherwise, within 
societies. The case study method in anthropology 
is thus not only integral to the discipline, but con- 
tributes to the development of other fields. 

Critical Summary 

The case study method, in the form of the ethno- 
graphic study, thus is not only an integral aspect of 
anthropology, but, in many ways, defines and 
shapes anthropology as a discipline. While it has 
the drawbacks of needing total immersion, of prob- 
lematic generalizability, and of the particular prob- 
lems that relate to the deep personal involvement of 
researcher with subjects, it is particularly useful in 
situations where an impressionistic, organic mode 
of analysis is needed; when what is required is to 
know not simply what the group under study does, 
but how it feels to experience life from their per- 
spectives, and also opens the doorway to the use of 
rhetorical devices as research tools. 

Fiona Moore 

See also Autoethnography; Case Study Research in 
Business and Management; Case Study Research in 
Feminism; Case Study Research in Psychology; 
Colonialism; Ethnographic Memoir; Ethnography; 
Ethnomethodology; Institutional Ethnography; 
Narratives; Naturalistic Context; Naturalistic Inquiry; 
Participant Observation; Postmodernism; Qualitative 
Analysis in Case Study 

Further Readings 

Agar, M. H. (1980). The professional stranger: An 

informal introduction to ethnography. New York: 

Academic Press. 
Barley, N. (1983). The innocent anthropologist: Notes 

from a mud hut. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin. 
Bernard, H. R. (1994). Research methods in 

anthropology: Qualitative and quantitative 

approaches (2nd ed.). London: Sage. 
Clifford, J. (1986). Introduction: Partial truths. In 

J. Clifford & G. E. Marcus (Eds.), Writing culture: 

The poetics and politics of ethnography (pp. 1-26). 

London: University of California Press. 
Coffey, A. (1999). The ethnographic self: Fieldwork and 

the representation of identity. London: Sage. 
Dresch, P. (1992). Ethnography and general theory. 

journal of the Anthropological Society of Oxford, 

23(1), 17-36. 

Fetterman, D. M. (1989). Ethnography: Step by step. 
London: Sage. 

Freeman, D. (1983). Margaret Mead and Samoa: The 
making and unmaking of an anthropological myth. 
Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin. 

Hammersley, M. (1998). Reading ethnographic research: 
A critical guide (2nd ed.). Harlow, UK: Addison- 

Harris, M. (1969). The rise of anthropological theory: A 
history of theories of culture. London: Routledge & 
Kegan Paul. 

Kaberry, P. (1957). Malinowski's contribution to field- 
work methods and the writing of ethnography. In 
R. Firth (Ed.), Man and culture: An evaluation of the 
work of Bronislaw Malinowski (pp. 71-92). London: 
Routledge & Kegan Paul. 

Kuper, A. (1973). Anthropologists and anthropology: The 
British school 1922-1972. London: Allen Lane. 

Langham, I. (1981). The building of British social 
anthropology: W. H. R. Rivers and his Cambridge 
disciples in the development of kinship studies, 
1898-1931 (Studies in the History of Modern Science, 
Vol. 8). London: D. Reidel. 

Ogbu, J. U. (1974). Learning in Burgherside: The 
ethnography of education. In G. M. Foster & R. V. 
Kemper (Eds.), Anthropologists in cities (pp. 93-121). 
Boston: Little, Brown. 

Pratt, M. L. (1986). Fieldwork in common places. In J. 
Clifford & G. E. Marcus (Eds.), Writing culture: The 
poetics and politics of ethnography (pp. 27-50). 
London: University of California Press. 

Rosaldo, M. Z. (1980). The use and abuse of 

anthropology: Reflections on feminism and cross- 
cultural understanding. Signs, 5(3), 389-417. 

Rosaldo, R. (1986). From the door of his tent: The 
fieldworker and the inquisitor. In J. Clifford & 
G. E. Marcus (Eds.), Writing culture: The poetics and 
politics of ethnography (pp. 77-97). London: 
University of California Press. 

Sharpe, D. (2001). Globalization and change: An 
in-depth case study of processes of organisational 
continuity and change within a Japanese 
manufacturing organisation in the UK. In G. Morgan, 
P. H. Kristensen, & R. Whitley (Eds.), The 
multinational firm: Organizing across national and 
institutional divides (pp. 196-222). Oxford, UK: 
Oxford University Press. 

Tyler, S. A. (1986). Post-modern ethnography: From 
document of the occult to occult document. In 
J. Clifford & G. E. Marcus (Eds.), Writing culture: 
The poetics and politics of ethnography (pp. 122-140). 
London: University of California Press. 

Case Study Research in Business and Management 


Case Study Research in 
Business and Management 

Case study research in business and management 
examines issues that are related to the industrial 
and economic spheres of life. Topics of interest 
include human interaction, events, and processes 
taking place in organizational, business, and com- 
pany settings. Through the rich empirical descrip- 
tion of one or several real-life cases in their proper 
contexts, the purpose is to produce new knowl- 
edge concerning either the case itself or theoretical 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Case study research in business and management 
can achieve various goals depending on the philo- 
sophical and disciplinary background, the goals 
and the research questions of the study, as well as 
the nature of the research design, including the 
number of cases to be studied. In principle, there 
are no limitations in terms of the underlying philo- 
sophical positions, ranging from positivism to 
interpretivism and constructionism, or in terms of 
descriptive, interpretative, exploratory, or explan- 
atory goals. The research questions focus most 
often on business- and management-related phe- 
nomena, but not necessarily from the managerial 
or business development points of view. The point 
of view may also be that of the employees, cus- 
tomers, consumers, societal policymakers, or soci- 
ety in general. Practical, problem-solving, and 
even normative objectives can be included in the 

Single-, multiple-, and comparative case designs 
are used, as well as qualitative and quantitative 
data from various sources (e.g., interviews, obser- 
vations, statistics, minutes of meetings, annual 
reports, advertisements, campaign materials), and 
studies rely on various methods of analysis. 
Common features include avoiding overly simplis- 
tic research topics and designs that can be explored 
with quantitative research approaches, and pro- 
ducing detailed and holistic knowledge that is 
based on detailed analysis of empirical data rich in 
context. Because of the varied nature of case study 
research in business and management, there is a 

tendency to consider case study research as a 
research strategy rather than as a research method- 
ology or method. 

Many of the classic business and management 
case studies rely on research designs building on 
one or a few cases. These draw on the ethno- 
graphic research tradition with the aim of pro- 
viding a rich and detailed description and 
cultural understanding of business- and manage- 
ment-related actors, events, and processes. Single 
case studies may be longitudinal and historical. 
As an alternative to the classic case studies, 
Kathleen Eisenhardt has suggested that multiple 
and comparative case studies are valuable 
because they enable theory building through 
grounded-theory inspired analysis, which focuses 
on mapping common patterns and properties 
across several cases. 

Paivi Eriksson and Anne Kovalainen, who have 
written specifically on qualitative research meth- 
ods in business and management, describe in their 
book the differences between intensive and exten- 
sive case study research strategies. Intensive case 
study research strategy draws on the classic 
case study tradition, showing an interest in the 
case itself and developing an understanding of the 
workings of the case in a specific economic, social, 
and cultural context. Intensive case study research 
strategy focuses on one or a few unique cases with 
the aim of producing a contextualized and holistic 
description, interpretation, and explanation. 
Therefore, the explanatory power of the intensive 
case study research does not rely on statistical gen- 
eralization but, instead, on understanding and 
analytic generalization. 

In intensive case study research, the researcher 
is an interpreter who describes and constructs the 
case, and analyzes the empirical materials related 
to the case, often by focusing on the perspectives, 
conceptions, experiences, interactions, or sense- 
making processes of the people involved in the 
study. The case under study is rare, unusual, or 
extreme rather than typical. However, the excep- 
tional nature of the case is not considered a prob- 
lem, but rather a key issue of research interest. 
The objective is to explore and understand how 
the case under study works as a configurative 
and ideographic unit. Therefore, intensive case 
study research does not produce new knowledge 
that could be generalized to other contexts in the 


Case Study Research in Business and Management 

conventional meaning of generalizing empirical 

Intensive case study research strategy may be 
carried out with static, cross-cut research designs, 
but dynamic designs, looking at change or develop- 
ment over time, or exploring time-related issues 
within a case are much more common. A challenge 
for intensive case study research is to relate theo- 
retical concepts to empirical investigation. First, 
theoretical concepts to be used in the study are not 
always chosen prior to empirical investigation. In 
other words, they can enter the study at any phase. 
Second, once theoretical concepts have been cho- 
sen, there is a need for an ongoing dialogue between 
them and the empirical data and analysis. 

Extensive case study research strategy differs 
from the intensive strategy because of its interest in 
mapping common patterns, mechanisms, and 
properties in a chosen context for the purpose of 
developing, elaborating, or testing theory. The 
cases and their detailed description are not the 
main focus of interest. In this strategy, the cases 
serve as instruments that can be used in exploring 
specific business-related phenomena and in devel- 
oping theoretical propositions that can be tested 
and generalized to other business contexts or to 
theory. Not all the features of the cases are neces- 
sarily analyzed in detail, as in the more intensive 
case research designs. The main interest lies in 
investigating, elaborating, and explaining a phe- 
nomenon that is often theory related, not in under- 
standing the workings of the cases themselves. The 
knowledge generated from the cases can add some- 
thing new to the existing theory, for instance 
by testing it in a specific setting or context. 
Alternatively, the new knowledge generated 
through the analysis of the cases can be used to 
develop new theoretical constructs. 

In extensive case study research, the selection 
of cases usually follows the logic of replication, 
enabling constant comparison of the cases. In 
addition, the cases may serve various objectives: 
They validate or extend emergent theory, fill theo- 
retical categories, provide examples of extreme 
types, or replicate previously selected cases. In this 
regard, the need for selection criteria is no differ- 
ent from that of any other form of experimenta- 
tion based on replication logic. The selection of 
the cases may also be influenced by pragmatic 
considerations, such as access and feasibility. 


Case study research in business and management is 
often used to investigate issues that are difficult or 
impossible to study with quantitative research 

Two exemplars of the intensive and extensive 
case study research strategies in business and man- 
agement are Paivi Eriksson and Keijo Rasanen's 
1997 longitudinal study of the evolving constella- 
tions of product mix management in a confection- 
ery company, and Melissa Graebner and Kathleen 
Eisenhardt's 2004 multiple case, inductive study of 
the seller's perspective of acquisitions. 

Eriksson and Rasanen's historical single case 
study spans a 40-year period, from 1950 to 1990, 
with the objective of describing the long-term pro- 
cess of product mix management in its environ- 
mental and temporal context. The study relies on 
the theoretical idea of organizations as systems of 
interaction and influence among multiple actors, 
arguing that there is little systematic empirical 
analysis concerning how certain organizational 
outcomes (e.g., a product mix) are produced 
through the interaction of people and groups of 
people. The particular issue that formed the case 
itself was the change in product mix and the related 
managerial processes that concerned the interac- 
tion of constellations of manager groups in 
marketing, production, and general and top 
management. The case was selected on theoretical 
and methodological grounds: long history of 
changes in the product mix; stable ownership in a 
turbulent industry with an increased number of 
mergers and acquisitions; and excellent access, 
including good availability of archival data and 
personal interviews. Multiple data sources includ- 
ing personal interviews and informal discussions 
with managers and industry experts, price lists of 
confectionery products, documentary and archival 
data, industry statistics and information as well as 
media articles covering a period of 40 years pro- 
vided rich empirical data, which were systemati- 
cally triangulated. Interviews with the managers 
were a key criterion in choosing other data that 
were used in the study. 

The study provides an example of how quanti- 
tative and qualitative data and methods can be 
combined in a single case study. In the first phase 
of the analysis, the changes in the product mix 

Case Study Research in Business and Management 


were analyzed with quantitative time series analy- 
sis focusing on the extensiveness (the number of 
brands offered to the market) and renewal (the 
number of new brands in the product mix). In the 
second phase, the managerial processes were ana- 
lyzed with qualitative data and methods. This 
included the construction of a chronological case 
history covering the "whole story," combined with 
several event, action, and interaction histories. 
After the first two phases of the analysis, the con- 
cept "logic of action" was adopted to describe 
how each manager group developed his or her 
"own projects," which relied on specific objec- 
tives, goals, means, and arguments. In the third 
phase, the interaction of the management groups 
was analyzed by looking at how each management 
group proposed, championed, or objected to prod- 
uct mix changes and how they responded to the 
actions of other management groups over time. 
This led to the identification of three different 
types of interaction that produced changes in the 
product mix: dominance, where the logic of one 
group dominated others; compromise, where the 
groups avoided extensive interaction through fear 
of disagreements and conflicts; and integration, 
where the groups interacted more frequently and 
developed common goals. 

Graebner and Eisenhardt suggest that, despite 
the variety of research on acquisitions, hardly any 
research is done from the seller's perspective. Their 
study is interested in the question: When and to 
whom do the leaders of entrepreneurial firms 
sell their companies? Because of lack of existing 
research, they use grounded, inductive methods 
and replication logic of analysis. Therefore, each 
of the 12 cases in their study is treated as an 
experiment that either confirms or disconfirms 
inferences that they draw from other cases of their 
study. The use of multiple cases is justified by the 
goal of achieving results that are generalizable 
beyond the specific cases that are studied. This is 
also why the selection of cases was given special 
attention. First, the researchers sampled four firms 
in three industries: networking hardware, infra- 
structure software, and online commerce. Further, 
three of the chosen case companies in each indus- 
try were acquired, but one was not. They also 
chose the companies on geographical grounds: 
50% from the Silicon Valley, 25% from other 
parts of the western United States, and 25% from 

the eastern half of the United States. The reason 
for sampling the cases in this particular way is 
carefully explained in the study. 

The study uses several data sources and both 
quantitative and qualitative data including 80 
semistructured interviews, e-mails and phone calls, 
financial data, and archival data. The first phase of 
data collection consisted of 15 pilot interviews 
with managers, investors, and intermediaries. The 
pilot interviews together with snowball sampling 
were used to identify the most influential infor- 
mants concerning the acquisition process. 

Data analysis started with one researcher writ- 
ing individual case studies synthesizing the data 
from various sources, which provided triangula- 
tion in order to increase objectivity. In addition, a 
second researcher, who had also read the interview 
data, formed an independent view of the case his- 
tories, which was then incorporated into the 
description of each case to provide a more com- 
plete picture of the respective case. In the next 
phase, inductive within-case and cross-case analy- 
ses were performed. The purpose of the within- 
case analysis was to allow theoretical constructs to 
emerge from the data without any comparison of 
similarities and differences across cases. After the 
analysis of each case was completed individually, 
cross-case analysis was carried out in order to 
search for similar constructs and relationships 
across the 12 cases. The cross-case analysis was 
iterative; it resulted in a framework describing the 
acquisition process from the seller's point of view. 
The framework describes how leaders are either 
"pushed" or "pulled" toward acquisition, which is 
characterized as a courtship between the two will- 
ing acquisition partners. 

Critical Summary 

When doing case study research in the area of busi- 
ness and management, researchers can choose 
between an intensive or extensive focus, depending 
on the purpose and goals of their study. Neither 
strategy is limited to any specific kind of empirical 
data or method of analysis. The advantages of case 
studies in business and management research relate, 
first, to the possibilities of examining and under- 
standing unique, rare, and atypical companies and 
organizations as well as complex and dynamic 
events and processes. Second, the advantages relate 


Case Study Research in Business Ethics 

to the possibility of generating new theoretical con- 
structs and testing theory in a way that is more 
sensitive to the social, cultural, and economic con- 
text compared to quantitative research approaches. 
The disadvantages of case studies include applica- 
bility of the knowledge gained through the descrip- 
tive and detailed accounts of case data. The 
examples above offer two views of the ways in 
which case study research can be used to provide 
rich description and contextual understanding 
on the one hand, and theory development on the 
other hand. 

Paivi Eriksson and Anne Kovalainen 

See also Analytic Generalization; Contextualization; 
Descriptive Case Study; Ethnography; Grounded 
Theory; Instrumental Case Study; Practice-Oriented 
Research; Replication 

Further Readings 

Eisenhardt, K. (2007). Theory building from cases: 
Opportunities and challenges. Academy of 
Management Journal, 50, 25-32. 

Eriksson, P., & Kovalainen, A. (2008). Case study 
research. In Qualitative methods in business research 
(pp. 115-136). London & Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Eriksson, P., & Rasanen, K. (1997). The bitter and the 
sweet: Evolving constellations of product mix 
management in a confectionary company. European 
Journal of Marketing, 32(3-4), 279-304. 

Graebner, M., & Eisenhardt, K. (2004). The seller's side 
of the story: Acquisition as courtship and governance 
as syndicate in entrepreneurial firms. Administrative 
Science Quarterly, 49, 366-403. 

Case Study Research 
in Business Ethics 

Research case studies in business ethics explore 
the appropriateness of decisions, actions, and 
moral reasoning in complex situations where there 
often is not an obvious right or wrong answer. In 
contrast to case studies designed for teaching busi- 
ness theories, research cases are not centered on a 
decision maker; rather they focus on a phenome- 
non, decision, event, or issue that has ethical 
implications for how business is conducted. A 

good case study allows readers to analyze the 
arguments and positions of key decision makers 
and stakeholders, as well as the contextual factors 
that influenced the actions and outcomes, to arrive 
at their own assessment of the moral implications 
of a situation. Business ethics case studies lead to 
an improved understanding of the evolution of 
ethical issues, comprehending the role of contex- 
tual factors in interpretations and judgments 
about acceptable means and ends, and refined 
moral reasoning as well as business practices. 

Types of Research Cases 

A common foundation for a business ethics case 
study is a critical incident with visible outcomes, 
such as the Union Carbide leak in Bhopal, India; 
Shell's plan for disposing of the Brent Spar oil stor- 
age buoy in the North Sea; or whistle-blowing in 
the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. The critical 
incidence is used to set the boundaries of the 
research case study, while the visible outcomes 
emphasize the value of the case study to both prac- 
titioners and researchers. Outcomes of these types 
of case studies include a better understanding of 
how contextual factors influence judgment, identi- 
fication of needed changes to practices or policies, 
impact of individual or group motivation, or 
evolving stakeholder expectations. 

In contrast to focusing on one event, longitudi- 
nal case studies track changes over time. These 
types of research cases are important for the iden- 
tification of evolving stakeholder expectations and 
changing ethical standards. For example, Margaret 
Griesse traces how DuPont's responses to stake- 
holder expectations led to the transformation of an 
explosives and chemicals company into a life- 
science corporation, and how nongovernmental 
organizations (NGOs) and community groups 
shaped this evolution. 

Comparative cases are appropriate for exploring 
potential cause and effect relationships, as well as 
the influence of operating practices or policies in 
different settings. It is also an appropriate methodol- 
ogy for examining why differences in judgment or 
decisions occur in similar settings. This design sup- 
ports the identification of effective practices or poli- 
cies, and can illustrate how generic practices can go 
awry under certain contextual factors. For example 
Knut Ims and Ove Jakobsen used contrasting cases 

Case Study Research in Business Ethics 


to examine the consequences of different strategic 
orientations to stakeholders. They compared the 
stakeholder strategies of two organizations devel- 
oped to support the interests of vulnerable farmers, 
Max Havelaar for coffee growers and TINE for 
dairy farmers. The paradigmatic case (i.e., coffee 
growers) adopted a transparent cooperative strategy 
toward its stakeholders, while the negative case (i.e., 
dairy farmers) engaged in competitive tactics and 
collusion. The authors then compared the effective- 
ness of both approaches in reducing the vulnerabili- 
ties of the two groups of farmers. 

Ethical issues are often the result of a ripple 
effect; that is, a decision or action that occurs at one 
level in an organization, with consequences occur- 
ring at unexpected levels in the organization or 
leading to unanticipated stakeholder reactions. 
Ripple effects are not often transparent; as a conse- 
quence, decision makers and stakeholders react on 
erroneous reasoning or inappropriate cause-and- 
effect relationships. A research case study provides 
the framework for exploring links across "assumed" 
unrelated decisions, identifying causal relationships 
across events, and identifying hidden consequences. 
One example of an adverse ripple effect is when 
human rights NGOs advocated for changes to chil- 
dren producing soccer balls in their homes in 
Pakistan, because the production process violated 
basic tenets of workers' rights. Farzad Khan out- 
lines the history of soccer ball production in 
Pakistan, the entry of the media and NGOs to 
uncover the exploitation of "stitching families," the 
shift to factory production, and the perverse out- 
comes of these well-intentioned actions of NGOs. 

Design of Research Cases 

The choice of setting for business ethics cases is 
rarely random. Criteria for choosing a specific 
setting or organization include occurrence of a 
critical incidence (e.g., employee wrongdoing, 
stakeholder reaction), internal practices or policies 
(i.e., codes of ethics, human rights issues), access to 
key decision makers (e.g., senior management as 
well as frontline employees), access to key stake- 
holders (e.g., members of advocacy NGOs, com- 
munity members), and specific combinations of 
contextual factors (e.g., allegations of improper 
behavior, industry reputation, changing perfor- 
mance standards, insolvency). 

Ethical problems are ambiguous and complex, 
with multiple stakeholders and interpretations as 
to appropriate actions. Thus, it is important to col- 
lect data from more than one source. Archival data 
include Web documents of companies and stake- 
holder groups (e.g., NGOs, community groups, 
industry associations), documents from indepen- 
dent groups (e.g., think tanks, international agree- 
ments), and media reports (e.g., industry 
publications, local and national newspapers). 
Concrete information about the company's perfor- 
mance and policies (e.g., financial data, strategic 
goals, policies) is found in annual reports, policy 
documents, and media releases. Internal (e.g., 
e-mails, memos) documents provide information 
about informal practices and reward systems. 

A common mistake in developing business eth- 
ics cases is sole dependence on information from 
third-party sources (e.g., newspapers, Internet) 
rather than from a variety of primary sources. 
Interviews should be the primary data source when 
there is a need to understand conflicting interpre- 
tations, ripple effects, or masked pressures on deci- 
sion makers. Information collected in the first 
round of interviews directs the researcher to deci- 
sion points and influential stakeholders/employees 
for the next round of data collection. Although 
interviews are a critical data source, the informa- 
tion obtained in them still needs to be triangulated 
with other data sources, such as internal company 
documents or annual reports. 

A key benefit of case research in business ethics 
is the analysis of interacting contextual factors that 
lead to unexpected outcomes or different realities 
for decisions makers and stakeholders. Good judg- 
ment and expertise are based on recognizing the 
influence of contextual factors, and being able to 
anticipate in advance how they will shape realities. 

Contextual factors that could influence percep- 
tions of Tightness or wrongness of an action 
include type of business, corporate structure, 
financial position, visibility of outcomes, past 
practices, competitors' practices, location of oper- 
ations, role of government, formal policies or prac- 
tices, sophistication of community or nonprofit 
groups, competitive position of the company, visi- 
bility of actions and consequences, level of techni- 
cal sophistication, and current issues in the media. 
Important contextual factors may not be immedi- 
ately transparent, so researchers need to monitor 


Case Study Research in Business Ethics 

other data sources continuously to ensure all key 
contextual factors are eventually included in the 
data analysis. 

Data analysis is as much an art as a science. 
Numerous methods can be used in analyzing ethi- 
cal issues. Four methods that are particularly valu- 
able in monitoring for converging patterns across 
data sources are time lines, process/flowcharts, 
network channels, and stakeholder maps. Time 
lines help identify influential factors arising from 
different groups or individuals as an issue evolves. 
Process/flowcharts are useful for analyzing internal 
activities or decisions, and for identifying gaps 
between formal policies and actual practices. 
Network channels and stakeholder maps are good 
for identifying information flows and communica- 
tion patterns to identify how multiple interpreta- 
tions evolved. Part of the art of good data analysis 
is continuous monitoring for conflicting data or 
indications that assumptions or the analysis needs 
to be refined. For example, Bent Flyvberg noted 
that his training in neoclassical economics led him 
to assume that the interactions among local busi- 
nesses and city council would be controlled through 
competition. After many layers of data analysis he 
instead found collusion and secrecy among leaders 
of the business community and city council that 
paralleled situations in countries with far less 
developed governments. Another study examined 
a Spanish ceramic tile firm's implementation of an 
environmental management accounting system. 
The company had externally and internally sup- 
ported the need for environmental disclosures, and 
justified the new system to improve its communi- 
cations with key stakeholders. However, Maria 
Masanet-Llodra found the system was not needed, 
nor was it used, to communicate with external 
stakeholders. Rather it was implemented because 
of the company's strategy to be a technical leader 
in all aspects of the ceramic tile industry. 

Critical Summary 

A well-written business ethics case provides suffi- 
cient information for a reader to reach indepen- 
dent conclusions as to what influenced decisions or 
actions, and to develop moral insight or judgment. 
Information on the principles followed in the 
research design, data collection, and analysis needs 
to be provided in the case or as an appendix. This 

information allows the reader to ascertain the 
validity of the events and interpretations in the 
case. Including individual stories can be the most 
effective method for illustrating how or why differ- 
ing rationalizations, interpretations, or reactions 
evolved. A review of appropriate moral principles 
or theories to clarify why specific actions or out- 
comes are unacceptable may also be appropriate. 
As noted in the beginning, case studies contrib- 
ute to the field of business ethics when they iden- 
tify the evolution of moral standards, lead to new 
moral insight, or identify how contextual factors 
can lead to moral mazes. The focus of a business 
ethics case study should be a situation involving 
moral ambiguity, unexpected stakeholder reac- 
tions, or shifting moral standards. In general, these 
should not be based on violations of the law, 
unless the case illustrates problems with regulatory 
standards or processes. 

Loren Falkenberg 

See also Descriptive Case Study; Interviews; Network 
Analysis; Secondary Data as Primary; Situational 
Analysis; Storytelling; Triangulation 

Further Readings 

Derry, R., & Green, R. M. (1989). Ethical theory in 
business ethics: A critical assessment. Journal of 
Business Ethics, 8, 521-533. 

Flyvberg, B. (2004). Five misunderstandings about case- 
study research. In C. Seale, G. Gobo, J. F. Gubrium, 
& D. Silverman (Eds.), Qualitative research practice 
(pp. 420-434). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Gephart, R. (2004). Qualitative research and the 
Academy of Management journal. Academy of 
Management journal, 47(4), 454-462. 

Griesse, M. A. (2007). Developing social responsibility: 
Biotechnology and the case of DuPont in Brazil. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 73, 103-118. 

Ims, K. J., & Jakobsen, O. D. (2006). Cooperation and 
competition in the context of organic and mechanic 
worldviews — A theoretical and case based discussion. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 66, 19-32. 

Khan, F. R. (2007). Representational approaches matter. 
Journal of Business Ethics, 73, 77-89. 

Masanet-Llodra, M. J. (2006). Environmental 

management accounting: A case study research on 
innovative strategy. Journal of Business Ethics, 68, 

Case Study Research in Education 


Siggelkow, N. 2007. Persuasion with case studies. 
Academy of Management Journal, 59(1), 20-24. 

Case Study Research 
in Education 

The use of case studies in research creates knowl- 
edge and understanding. In education research, 
using the case study approach not only creates 
knowledge and understanding but also sets a stan- 
dard for good teaching practices through two 
main means — development and implementation of 
policy, and gaining experience through exposure 
to a particular phenomenon. Educational policies 
set a standard for good teaching practices that 
contribute to a greater overall level of education. 
Similarly, exposing student teachers, also known 
as preservice teachers, to a variety of teaching sce- 
narios gives them the knowledge needed through 
experience to handle these situations effectively 
and appropriately if they arise during their teach- 
ing careers. Therefore, using the case study 
approach in education research enables an overall 
higher quality level of education of students. 

This entry demonstrates how the case study 
approach is effective and beneficial as a research 
approach in the education field. Drawbacks to 
using this approach are also outlined, as well as an 
example of the use of case study research in inclu- 
sive education. 

Policy Development 

The use of the case study approach in education 
research allows for the setting of a teaching standard 
through the creation of new policy and/or modifica- 
tion of existing policy. This allows policymakers 
to develop policy in reflection of field research. The 
development occurs through a variety of means, 
such as research into varying phenomenon, and the 
monitoring of policy already in practice. 

Researching Phenomena 

Case study methodologies are flexible, allowing 
researchers to study a variety of phenomena rang- 
ing from unusual situations to complex interac- 
tions. These flexible methodologies are beneficial 

in that they provide researchers with tools for cap- 
turing the different elements that contribute to 
peculiarities of the phenomenon under investiga- 
tion. This enables researchers to expose what may 
have contributed to the phenomenon, and allows 
policymakers either to incorporate this into new 
policy or to modify existing policy. 

In research using only quantitative survey meth- 
ods, outlier cases may be disregarded as they may 
be seen as errors or statistically irrelevant. The case 
study approach differs in that these outlier situa- 
tions can be studied in depth, along with the other 
scenarios, by targeted sampling while still having a 
study with statistically relevant results. In order to 
capture all situations, participants are chosen from 
specified areas. Particularly with education research 
it is important to study these outlier situations as 
they are a reality, and proper teaching policy must 
therefore be developed so that effective and appro- 
priate teaching methods can be practiced. For 
example, although some disabilities are rare, they 
do occur, and in order to effectively accommodate 
children with these disabilities, appropriate teach- 
ing policy must be created and implemented. 
Without the flexibility of the case study approach, 
which allows for targeted sampling, it would oth- 
erwise be difficult to appropriately and effectively 
capture these phenomenon along with other situa- 
tions in a holistic way, so that they could be stud- 
ied and an appropriate policy created. 

The case study approach is also flexible in that it 
allows for the investigation of matters that may not 
have been included in the researcher's original 
goals. Unlike quantitative surveys, with this 
approach researchers are not bound to a defined set 
of questions, but are able to prompt subjects with 
further questions in order to obtain more detail. 
This dynamic quality of the case study approach 
allows the researcher to expose different patterns 
after the interviews that may have not been initially 
apparent, and allows for further research in either a 
new or a broadened direction. Again, with this new 
information, policymakers can develop policy by 
either incorporating the information or creating 
new policy in order to accommodate what was dis- 
covered through the field research. 

This approach is flexible in that there is a wide 
range of contexts the case study can cover, ranging 
from a single case to an entire continent. This qual- 
ity is particularly beneficial in educational research 

100 Case Study Research in Education 

as it gives researchers the ability to be as general or 
as specific as is felt appropriate in order to capture 
adequate detail. If sufficient detail is attained in the 
research, conclusions may be reached, and eventu- 
ally a refined policy may be developed to meet the 
needs of that particular scenario. 

In small jurisdictions, case study research may 
be the only approach that makes sense. For exam- 
ple, in small rural school districts, if one wanted to 
research the available teaching services and their 
impact on a particular group of students, previous 
data might lead the researchers to adopt the case 
study approach. An example of this is the work 
undertaken by Frank Costa in 2007. Costa studied 
the experiences of three teenagers with traumatic 
brain injuries in a small school district. In this 
study, each teenager's experience and educational 
supports were analyzed and some general patterns 
emerged around educational supports. There were 
enough commonalities that some conclusions were 
warranted for that district. With a small sample 
size, the case study approach provides a logical 
means to complete in-depth research. 

There can be challenges when trying to general- 
ize the results from case study research, as what is 
observed is often contextually relevant to a par- 
ticular phenomenon. The detail in the findings 
obtained when using the case study approach is 
both a strength and a challenge, but with careful 
analysis and supporting research, generalizations 
may be appropriate. For example, if a researcher 
wanted to look at an educational intervention in a 
school district, it would be appropriate to under- 
take a research project that has complex and var- 
ied data collection requirements, such as a case 
study approach. They could include focus groups, 
interviews, and observations and surveys of chil- 
dren, parents, and/or teachers. The results of such 
a study would apply to this school district, but the 
conclusions may also be of interest to other dis- 
tricts attempting a similar intervention. If after a 
few school districts attempted and researched the 
impact of the intervention and similar conclusions 
were found, wider applicability might be possible. 

Monitoring Policy 

Sometimes policy created to solve a problem 
works in theory, but does not necessarily work in 
practice. The case study approach can be used as a 

research method to monitor an already imple- 
mented policy. In educational research, the case 
study approach can be an effective, rigorous 
approach when monitoring policy, especially for 
teaching policy concerning children with unique 
needs, or classes and/or schools that have imple- 
mented a unique program. 

Through this approach, researchers are given 
the ability to monitor these policies through a mix 
of various qualitative and quantitative methods, 
such as surveys and interviews, leading to in-depth 
results from multiple perspectives. Using qualita- 
tive methods, the researcher can describe the sur- 
roundings of the case. This allows insight into any 
potential variables that could affect the researched 
scenario, such as political factors, community val- 
ues, and so forth. Using quantitative methods 
allows the researcher to report on things like 
instances, location, and more. Together, these 
methods allow for a holistic representation of the 
scenario. Once the variables have been identified, 
further research may be initiated, or if the data are 
sufficiently detailed and convincing, conclusions 
may be reached. However, if research into imple- 
mented teaching policy shows that it may be inef- 
fective and conclusions cannot be reached, the 
detail provided in the research while using the case 
study approach may give insight as which vari- 
ables may have contributed to this ineffectiveness. 
Policymakers can then take this scenario and its 
variables into consideration when developing 
future policy. 

An important quality of effective policy to take 
into consideration when monitoring implemented 
policy is whether it can be generalized to suit the 
diverse needs of communities, districts, and others. 
As mentioned previously, one of the benefits of the 
case study approach is that it allows researchers to 
use targeted sampling so that outlier cases may be 
investigated alongside other scenarios. This enables 
researchers to conduct in-depth studies to confirm 
whether the implemented policy is effective 
throughout the entire scope of its use. For exam- 
ple, during the monitoring of teaching policy 
across a school district, subjects can be chosen 
from different communities within the district, 
including those with different cultural influences. 
Because of these cultural differences, the imple- 
mented policy may shown to be ineffective in some 
areas. Therefore, it could be concluded that the 

Case Study Research in Education 101 

teaching policy is not sufficiently generalized for 
the entire district, and action can be generated to 
develop the policy further, based on these results. 

Benefits and Drawbacks 

As illustrated in the previous sections, using the 
case study approach in educational research has 
many benefits when the goal is to develop teaching 
policy. However, the case study approach may not 
always be the method best suited for a research proj- 
ect. Limitations do occur and one must consider 
these carefully before applying this approach. 
Having the available resources should be a major 
factor in the decision to proceed with a case study 
approach. These resources include time, funding, 
and experienced and/or knowledgeable researchers. 

In education research, the case study approach 
differs from quantitative surveys in that it enables 
researchers to complete a comprehensive study with 
a smaller sample size. The smaller sample size is 
compensated for through targeted sampling, 
enabling the research results to remain statistically 
relevant. A smaller sample size may be beneficial in 
that it may allow fewer researchers to carry out the 
research in a shorter amount of time. However, in 
contrast with quantitative survey methods, the 
research methods involved in the case study approach 
may not be possible to complete remotely, and may 
require that methods, such as interviews and obser- 
vations, be performed in person. Therefore, depend- 
ing on the scope of the research, studies of education 
systems may, or may not, require extensive travel 
and time in each location. Therefore, when deciding 
to take this approach to research, the size of the 
sample must be carefully considered. 

Maintaining the anonymity of the subjects 
involved in the case study research is of the utmost 
importance, and it is it important to keep in mind 
when using this approach. This can become very 
difficult in some situations, especially where some 
of the variables that contribute to the phenomenon 
could potentially serve as identifying factors. Yet, 
as with all case study research, researchers must 
provide enough detail to maintain research valid- 
ity. As demonstrated at the end of this discussion, 
this is an especially important concern in fields of 
research such as inclusive education. 

In both of these scenarios, having researchers 
who are experienced and knowledgeable is useful in 

that they may be more prepared to handle these 
situations. For example, an experienced researcher 
may be able to budget time effectively so that mini- 
mal resources, and therefore minimal spending, can 
be used while maximizing the scope of the research. 
An experienced researcher may also know how to 
develop effective procedures to ensure that enough 
detail is revealed in the research while maintaining 
minimal risk of identifying the participants. 

Teaching Teachers With Case Studies 

Holistically described scenarios aid in allowing 
preservice teachers to learn about situations they 
may encounter in practice. This pre-exposure 
allows these teachers to form opinions and decide 
on appropriate actions, giving them the tools to 
handle these situations appropriately and effec- 
tively. By retelling the story, this presents a stan- 
dard teaching method to follow, or how that 
standard may be changed to suit the needs of a 
particular scenario. It is also possible to present a 
case study to show ineffective use of policy, so that 
teachers may learn from previous errors and not 
repeat them. 

Inclusive Education 

Inclusive education has emerged over the past few 
decades as an important approach to educating 
children with special needs. This approach emerges 
out of a human rights perspective, that all children 
deserve an education with their age appropriate 
peers. Inclusive education is gaining international 
acceptance with endorsement from the United 
Nations and many countries. 

The challenge with researching inclusive educa- 
tion practices is the difference in approaches to 
education. For example, in the United States, 
inclusive education is regulated at the federal level 
while in Canada it is a provincial responsibility. 
Even at the school level, approaches to education 
can vary from multi-age classrooms to standard- 
ized classrooms. Each child placed in an inclusive 
classroom may require different approaches to 
education — a child with autism may require differ- 
ent modifications than a child with attention defi- 
cit disorder. 

These complexities and realities require educa- 
tional researchers to adopt a research approach 

102 Case Study Research in Education 

that can capture the unique aspects of each situa- 
tion. Case study research is not only an ideal 
approach to researching inclusive education, but it 
can also capture the richness of data necessary to 
understand the multifaceted aspects of the inclu- 
sive classroom environment. 

Especially vital when undertaking case study 
research in inclusive settings, the contextual situa- 
tion must be described so that the reader can 
understand the situation. Multiple views must be 
sought to understand the interactions of players 
with the environment. Multiple sources of data 
need to be collected, including data that reflect the 
educational mission, such as achievement data, if 
appropriate. As always, especially with respect to 
inclusive case study research, one ethical issue that 
must be particularly considered is anonymity. In 
inclusive educational settings, the participants must 
be described thoroughly so that the reader under- 
stands the dynamics; yet this can be challenging to 
do without risking their being easily identified. 

The power of case study research is that it can 
ask the questions of "why" and "how," which are 
important in education practice. These are the ques- 
tions that practitioners and policymakers need 
answered. As more and more case study research is 
conducted in inclusive education, patterns will emerge 
that provide researchers and educators with impor- 
tant results that can influence policy and practice. 

Case study research can provide rich holistic 
data that contribute to the understanding of com- 
plex situations. Inclusive education is an example 
of an area that is complex, and each situation is 
unique with its own challenges. Case study research 
is a logical approach to researching many aspects 
of inclusive education. 

Critical Summary 

Case study research has the potential to contribute 
to the larger field of education. It is critical that 
when reporting on the research, authors ensure 
that they pay attention to the larger context of 
education reform and its impact on the classroom. 
The case study approach is an effective method 
for educational research, allowing researchers to 
develop policy in order to set teaching standards, 
helping to increase the overall level of education of 
students. The case study approach can also be used 
in education research as a method of providing 

teachers with experience, so that they may become 
knowledgeable and adequately prepared to handle 
a variety of situations in the classroom. 

Vianne Timmons and Elizabeth Cairns 

See also Anonymity and Confidentiality; Case Study 
Protocol; Case Within a Case; Cultural Sensitivity and 
Case Study; Ethics; Sampling 

Further Readings 

Costa, F. (2007). The transition of students with 
disabilities from high school to post secondary 
activities: A Prince Edward Island perspective. 
Unpublished master's thesis, University of Prince 
Edward Island, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. 

Costanzo, M., & Handelsman, M. (1998). Teaching 

aspiring professors to be ethical teachers: Doing justice 
to the case study method. Teaching of Psychology, 
25(2), 97-102. 

Ghesquiere, P., Maes, B., & Vandenberghe, R. (2004). The 
usefulness of qualitative case studies in research on 
special needs education. International Journal of 
Disability, Development and Education, 51(2), 171-184. 

Home, P., Timmons, V., & Adamowycz, R. (2008). 
Identified teacher supports for inclusive practice. 
Exceptionality Education Canada, 18(2&c3), 82-94. 

Luck, L., Jackson, D., & Usher, K. (2006). Case study: A 
bridge across the paradigms. Nursing Inquiry, 13(2), 

Lund, T. (2005). The qualitative-quantitative distinction: 
Some comments. Scandinavian Journal of Educational 
Research, 49(2), 115-132. 

Macpherson, I., Brooker, R., & Ainsworth, P. (2000). 
Case study in the contemporary world of research: 
Using notions of purpose, place, process and product 
to develop some principles for practice. International 
Journal of Social Research Methodology, 3(1), 49-61. 

McDonnell, A., Lloyd Jones, M., & Read, S. (2000). 
Practical considerations in case study research: The 
relationship between methodology and process. 
Journal of Advanced Nursing, 32(2), 383-390. 

Rosenberg, J., & Yates, P. (2007). Schematic 

representation of case study research designs. Journal 
of Advanced Nursing, 60(4), 447-452. 

Thompson, S. A. (2007). A community just for practice: 
A case of an inclusive/special education course. 
Canadian Journal of Education, 30(1), 171-192. 

Verschuren, P. (2003). Case study as a research strategy: 
Some ambiguities and opportunities. International 
Journal of Social Research Methodology, 6(1), 121-139. 

Case Study Research in Feminism 103 

Case Study Research 
in Feminism 

Feminism is a doctrine, ideology, or movement 
that addresses and advocates for the equal rights 
of women. In the context of case study research, 
feminism is a theory and a research practice; a 
framework that can be used to examine, analyze, 
and critique the lives of women. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Feminist research has as its objective the study of 
the domination and oppression of women in order 
to change and/or eliminate the sources of that 
oppression. It emerged from concerns about the 
invisibility and exploitation of women across sev- 
eral centuries. While it is often thought that feminist 
research focuses solely on women's experiences and 
issues, this is not the case. Recent feminist research 
conducted within the socialist feminist paradigm, 
for example, has examined men as a social category. 
David Collinson, Jeff Hearn, Deborah Kerfoot, 
David Knights, and Patricia Y. Martin, among oth- 
ers, have used feminist theories to examine the 
intersection of masculinities, management, and 
organizations. Feminist theories, then, can be used 
to study any group or situation in which one or 
more individuals are considered to be the "other," 
that is, dominated or oppressed in some manner, or 
who are located outside of the mainstream (as it is 
defined in a particular context). 

Feminist research has been conducted in such 
diverse fields as accounting, anthropology, history, 
organization studies, and the sociology of workers, 
to study a large number of diverse phenomena. For 
example, feminist research has examined women 
entering and working in traditionally male occupa- 
tions; gender and race in organizations; gendered 
subtexts of organizational and institutional struc- 
tures; the gendering of institutions such as educa- 
tion; and the gendering of leadership. It should 
be noted, however, that not all research directed 
toward gender issues is conducted from a feminist 
perspective or uses feminist theories. Gary Powell's 
research on women holding management posi- 
tions, for example, does not explicitly or implicitly 
seek to achieve social change. 

Feminist Perspectives 

Rosemarie Putnam Tong discusses the diversity 
of feminist thinking in her introduction to Feminist 
Thought. She notes that the use of categories or 
labels in feminist thought can assist in communi- 
cating to a broader public that feminism is not 
monolithic and that not all feminists think alike. 
The labels can be used as teaching tools to mark a 
range of different approaches, perspectives, and 
frameworks that feminist scholars use to shape 
explanations of and propose solutions for the 
elimination of women's oppression. Just as there is 
diversity in perspectives of feminist thought, there 
is diversity in the names of the categories used to 
describe the perspectives. These labels are not 
intended to be definitive or mutually exclusive. 

Pushkala Prasad identifies four feminist schol- 
arly traditions: liberal, women's voice/experience, 
radical, and poststructural. Tong identifies eight 
feminist thought categories: liberal, radical, Marxist 
and socialist, psychoanalytic and gender, existen- 
tialist, postmodern, multicultural and global, and 
eco. Marta Calas and Linda Smircich discuss seven 
feminist approaches or theories: liberal, radical, 
psychoanalytic, Marxist, socialist, poststructural- 
ist/postmodern, and third world/(post) colonial- 
ism. All of the perspectives are grounded in the 
recognition of male dominance in social arrange- 
ments (e.g., patriarchy and sexual division of 
labor) and all have a stated desire to change or 
eliminate this domination. Where the theories dif- 
fer is in the issues they address, the questions they 
raise, and the vocabulary they use in the research 
process. Calas and Smircich note that each femi- 
nist approach provides alternative accounts for 
gender inequality, frames the research problems 
and questions differently, and proposes different 
courses of action to resolve identified problems. 
Case studies in feminism can be conducted using 
any of the perspectives identified here, although 
researchers may find some of them work better 
than others. Three of these perspectives are 
described in the following paragraphs. 

Radical Feminist Theory 

This theory emerged in reaction to elements 
associated with male forms of power. This version 
of feminist theory directs its focus toward creating 
"woman space" through alternative institutions 

104 Case Study Research in Feminism 

and organizations. It seeks out answers to ques- 
tions concerned with the exploitation and oppres- 
sion of women embedded in institutional structures 
such as family, capitalism, bureaucracy, educa- 
tion, and science. Its aim is not to preserve the 
status quo; rather it seeks to find alternatives to 
patriarchy. Kate Millet, Shulamith Firestone, 
Mary Daly, and Marilyn French are among the 
feminist thinkers who are associated with the 
radical perspective. Case study research seeks to 
identify and describe feminist organizational prac- 
tices that could provide alternatives to patriarchal 
organizational structures, processes, and prac- 
tices. Many of these studies report on situations 
that are emotionally charged; where the ideals of 
equality and collective decision making collide 
with differences in class, race, and ethnicity, and 
work styles. 

Psychoanalytic Feminist Theory 

This theory is rooted in the work of Sigmund 
Freud. Researchers working in this tradition seek 
to understand the whole individual and how she 
relates to the world. They deviate from Freud, 
however, in their belief that differences between 
women and men are not biologically determined 
(i.e., differences are not present from birth). These 
researchers believe it is specific social arrange- 
ments such as the patriarchal family, not biology, 
that are responsible for distinctions in the psycho- 
logical development of females and males. 
Psychoanalytic feminist research examines differ- 
ences between women and men in a wide range of 
settings (e.g., work organizations, educational 
and religious institutions) and activities (e.g., 
leadership, management style). Recommendations 
for change are premised on the view that differ- 
ences provide an advantage, not a problem, for 
women and that the inclusion of feminine charac- 
teristics and different approaches will improve 
social arrangements. Changing social arrange- 
ments, it is believed, will lead to equal gender 
development. Nancy Chodorow, Dorothy 
Dinnerstein, and Juliet Mitchell are feminist 
thinkers associated with psychoanalytic feminist 
thinking. Other feminists have critiqued the psy- 
choanalytic perspective for further entrenching, 
not eliminating, gender stereotypes through its 
emphasis on differences. 

Socialist Feminist Theory 

This theory, which is sometimes presented in 
conjunction with Marxist feminism, is an amalga- 
mation of the positive ideas and insights generated 
from Marxist, radical, and psychoanalytic femi- 
nism. At the same time, socialist feminism seeks to 
avoid or overcome the perceived limitations in 
each of the three theories. Marxist thought is per- 
ceived to be gender-blind, and both radical and 
psychoanalytic feminism are perceived to have 
universalization tendencies, which ignore cultural 
and historical circumstances. Socialist feminists, 
such as Iris Young and Alison Jagger, view oppres- 
sion as a product of the political, social, and eco- 
nomic structures within which individuals live. 
Researchers are interested in obtaining answers to 
questions such as: Why does capitalism assign 
women to the home and men to the workplace? 
The research explores the embedding of gender 
assumptions in society's expectations and the inter- 
section of the assumptions with rules and practices 
found in organizations, institutions, and society. 
Proposed solutions emerging from the research are 
usually more radical than those that seek to place 
women and men on equal footing within existing 
frameworks of processes, practices, and taken-for- 
granted assumptions. 


Beverly Metcalfe and Alison Linstead examined 
and challenged the masculinist discourse found in 
theories and empirical research about teams using 
a poststructuralist feminist perspective. In their 
research they analyzed the discourse of teams 
using textual analysis, which highlighted the 
implicit gendering processes present in the dis- 
course. They then conducted a case study of an 
organization that was implementing a change ini- 
tiative intended to increase the use of teams within 
the manufacturing process. They conducted in- 
depth, semistructured interviews with 30 individu- 
als at various levels in the organization. The 
authors had a dual role in that they also had been 
engaged by the organization to advise on the devel- 
opment and implementation of the change initia- 
tive. They describe their dual role of consultant 
and researcher, noting that the dual roles were 
positively viewed by members of the organization. 

Case Study Research in Feminism 105 

They found that the theories and discourse of 
teams contained ambiguous power relations result- 
ing from the construction of gendered identities 
and gendered relations of power in teamwork 

Jayne Raisborough challenged the prevailing 
conceptions of career as a linear progression in her 
case study of women Sea Cadets. Jayne was a 
member of the Sea Cadet Corps, which allowed 
her access to the research site. At the beginning of 
her study she found that her dual role of member 
and researcher was not possible to maintain 
because her rank in the Sea Cadets was more 
senior than that held by many of her potential 
research participants. As a result, many partici- 
pants appeared cautious and guarded in answering 
her questions during interviews. She resigned in 
order to remove this obstacle, only to find that she 
was now viewed as an outsider and a failure by the 
Sea Cadets organization. Jayne describes her per- 
sonal difficulties in conducting the research from a 
position of being both an insider with an intimate 
knowledge of the organization and an outsider. 
She notes, however, that her position provided her 
with a "sharper critical focus on the ways" that 
participation in this type of leisure activity works. 

Kimberly Sultze conducted a case study of 
women and power using the special photography 
issue of the New York Times Magazine published 
in the fall of 2001. She conducted a cultural analy- 
sis of the content, drawing on feminist theories and 
critical frameworks. Her objective was to investi- 
gate whether or not women might be portrayed 
differently when photographed by women photog- 
raphers. Kimberly describes her approach to ana- 
lyzing the issue in considerable detail; her use of 
interdisciplinary research methods and her per- 
spective that the visual images (both editorial and 
advertising) formed part of a larger visual culture 
and did not appear in isolation. She provides a list 
of questions that she used to guide her analysis and 
critique and describes her approach to analyzing 
both the editorial images and advertising images. 
Finally she provides a lengthy description of each 
image, its positioning on the page, and its relation 
to other images. Taken together, this information 
allows readers to gain insights into how the analy- 
sis was conducted and how the researcher arrived 
at her interpretations and conclusions. She found 
that even though women photographers had taken 

the editorial images, a different point of view 
about women and power did not emerge. She calls 
for a change in the social and economic structure 
of media production as a means to move beyond 
the presentation of typical female stereotypes. 

Critical Summary 

Research conducted from a feminist perspective is 
frequently challenged on the basis that it is politi- 
cally motivated: militant and hostile to anything 
concerned with males and masculinity. Feminist 
research is a critical discourse designed to critique 
past and continuing patterns of male domination. 
Therefore it is always grounded in a political agenda. 
Research that does not challenge the status quo and 
taken-for-granted assumptions concerned with male 
domination is not feminist research. It is not fair, 
however, to presume that all feminist research or 
feminist researchers are opposed to men. 

According to Liz Kelly, Sheila Burton, and 
Linda Regan, a feminist researcher has two roles in 
a feminist research study. She (the researcher) is 
part of the process of discovery and understand- 
ing, and she is responsible for creating change. In 
order to fulfill the first role, the researcher must 
insert herself into the research. Failure to fulfill 
these two roles can lead to poor feminist research. 

The researcher's personal social situation and 
personal research agenda can guide or impact the 
direction of the research regardless of any attempt 
by the researcher to remain neutral (i.e., have no 
effect on the research process and outcomes) and 
objective. The perceived absence of neutrality and 
objectivity has been strongly criticized by those 
working in the positivist scientific paradigm. It is 
their contention that failure to remain neutral and 
objective compromises the research process and 
calls into question the validity of the research. This 
critique can be overcome, however, by providing 
autobiographical details about the researcher and 
discussing the messier realities of the research pro- 
cess. This type of detail is normally excluded from 
positivist research. 

A second concern that arises because of the 
researcher's insertion into the research concerns 
power. If the researcher has power over the par- 
ticipants (perceived or actual), participants may 
behave or report events differently than in the 
absence of a power relationship. 

106 Case Study Research in Medicine 

The use of case study research methodology will 
invariably require that the researcher include inter- 
pretation leading to the question of whose inter- 
pretation is presented, the researcher's or the 
research participants'? Interpretation is political, 
contested, and unstable. It is important, therefore, 
that the researcher explain the basis of her inter- 
pretation. The explanations should address the 
decision-making process that was used by the 
researcher, the methodological logic on which 
these decisions were made, and the process of 
making the interpretations. For example, which 
empirical materials were used to arrive at a par- 
ticular interpretation, were other interpretations 
considered and discarded, and so forth. 

A final criticism relates to the presumption and 
presentation of the research findings as representa- 
tive of or applicable to all women regardless of 
race, class, sexuality, marital status, or occupation 
(i.e., universalization). This critique often comes 
from within the feminist research community itself 
where it is argued, for example, that research rep- 
resenting the issues faced by Western, white, pro- 
fessional women does not speak for or represent 
the interests of all women. 

Case studies can be used to explore and critique 
the domination of women by men from a variety 
of perspectives. Feminist theories can also be used 
in case studies designed to examine the domination 
or oppression of groups of people on the basis of 
race, ethnicity, and sexuality. The researcher is not 
limited to one particular method. In the examples 
presented here, researchers used a variety of meth- 
ods including interviews, textual analysis, and 
cultural analysis to access areas of interest. There 
are other methods that can be used in qualitative 
and quantitative case studies. Researchers should 
select the method or methods most appropriate for 
their assumptions about the nature of social reality 
and the production of knowledge. 

Peggy Wallace 

See also Critical Theory; Gendering; Liberal Feminism; 
Masculinity and Femininity; Poststructuralist 
Feminism; Radical Feminism 

organization studies. In S. R. Clegg, C. Hardy, & 

W. R. Nord (Eds.), Handbook of organization studies 

(pp. 218-257). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 
Kelly, L., Burton, S., & Regan, L. (1994). Researching 

women's lives or studying women's oppression? 

Reflections on what constitutes feminist research. In 

M. Maynard & J. Purvis (Eds.), Researching women's 

lives from a feminist perspective (pp. 27-48). London: 

Taylor & Francis. 
Metcalfe, B., & Linstead, A. (2003). Gendering 

teamwork: Re-writing the feminine. Gender, Work 

and Organization, 10, 94-119. 
Powell, G. N. (1993). Women and men in management 

(2nd ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage. 
Prasad, P. (2005). Crafting qualitative research: Working in 

the post positivist traditions. New York: M. E. Sharpe. 
Raisborough, J. (2007). Gender and serious leisure 

careers: A case study of women Sea Cadets. Journal of 

Leisure Research, 39, 686-704. 
Sultze, K. (2003). Women, power and photography in the 

New York Times Magazine. Journal of 

Communication Inquiry, 27(Part 3), 274-290. 
Tong, R. P. (1998). Feminist thought: A comprehensive 

introduction (2nd ed.). Boulder, CO: Westview Press. 

Case Study Research 
in Medicine 

The use of the case study as a research approach 
within medicine shares many of the features of 
case studies in general; however, the traditional 
alignment of the field of medicine with natural 
science approaches as well as the close relation- 
ship between case study research and the clinical 
practice of medicine have resulted in several dis- 
tinct forms of case study research. The majority of 
case study research projects in medicine are pre- 
mised on empiricist traditions, yet there remain 
two distinct approaches to the use of case study 
research in medicine: the first firmly anchored in 
the language and epistemic assumptions of a logi- 
cal empiricist research paradigm, and the second, 
which has embraced an interpretivist orientation 
or an organizational analytic approach. 

Further Readings 

Calas, M. B., & Smircich, L. (1996). From "the 
woman's" point of view: Feminist approaches to 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

The case study in clinical research typically fits 
within an empiricist research paradigm, although 

Case Study Research in Medicine 107 

many examples of case studies exist that subscribe 
to interpretivist or mixed methods approaches. 
Research in medicine has a variety of foci, and 
researchers from a variety of research traditions 
(e.g., nursing, rehabilitation medicine) contribute 
to the totality of research in the field. Similarly, 
case study research has multiple variants within the 
field of medicine. In particular, case study research 
has been used to great effect in the study of the 
organizational contexts of healthcare. In their 
2002 text on embedded case study, Roland Scholz 
and Olaf Tietje define this type of case study 
research as program evaluation. 

From the literature, three distinct types of case 
study research in medicine emerge: (1) clinical case 
studies, (2) interpretive case studies, and (3) pro- 
gram evaluation. Both interpretive case studies and 
program evaluation have their origins in case study 
research in the social sciences, and, consequently, 
share the epistemological features of their progeni- 
tors. Allied health disciplines (particularly nursing) 
favor these types of case study research, while 
researchers in faculties of medicine tend toward 
clinical case studies as their preferred approach. 

The distinguishing variable in the selection of 
case study type for research in medicine, according 
to Scholz and Tietje, is the purpose of the case 
study research. Program evaluation case studies 
are commonly employed in instances where there 
are concerns with and/or an interest in changing 
the current approach. In contrast, interpretive case 
study research has been employed where the object 
of the research is medical career issues, work-life 
issues, or issues of patient perceptions and experi- 
ence of care. Clinical case studies are employed 
where the object of research is medical interven- 
tion or the diagnoses or definition of disease. 


Clinical case studies have a history in medicine as a 
tool for both teaching and research. As an example, 
the neurologist Oliver Sacks has used case study to 
great effect for teaching and research to increase 
understanding of various aspects of neurological 
disease. A historical example of the impact of the 
case study is that of H. M., who underwent bilateral 
mesial temporal lobe resection in the early 1950s 
and has been the subject of multiple publications on 
epilepsy, memory, and temporal lobe function. 

With the rise of evidence-based medicine (EBM) 
in the 1980s there was an increase in awareness of 
"best evidence" and in the development and use of 
tools to rate research based on levels or hierarchies 
of evidence. The Cochrane Collaboration is an 
example of an organization whose focus is on sys- 
tematic review of research in healthcare, with most 
Cochrane reviews being of randomized control tri- 
als (RCTs). The RCT has been held up as the gold 
standard for research in medicine. In the language 
of EBM, case studies are viewed as being near the 
other end of the spectrum compared to RCTs 
and as such are defined as "weak evidence" with 
respect to medical research. Brian Brighton and 
colleagues' discussion of the hierarchy of evidence, 
however, acknowledged that case studies are com- 
mon in the medical research literature, and recog- 
nized their value in terms of identifying areas for 
research, describing rare occurrences, and building 

Critical Summary 

In recent years there has begun a reconceptualiza- 
tion of "best evidence." Robyn Bluhm, and later 
David Atkins, wrote about the limitations of RCTs 
and the value of other methods of research to fur- 
ther the practice of medicine. More specifically, 
Trisha Greenhalgh, followed by William Miller and 
Benjamin Crabtree, argue that there is a place for 
qualitative approaches in evidence-based practice. 

Alan Kazdin suggested that strengths of case 
study research include that it is a research design 
clinicians can make use of without need of exces- 
sive external resources, and that it avoids the distil- 
lation of research subjects, which has the potential 
to decrease clinical relevance or usefulness to prac- 
titioners. Additional advantages of case study 
design are in pilot testing novel approaches to 
treatment and in situations where ethical concerns 
limit the use of other methodological approaches. 
Kazdin cautions that the challenge of case study 
research is to rule out alternative hypotheses that 
could account for the observations of the study. 

According to Kazdin, a number of steps can be 
taken to strengthen the validity and usefulness of 
the case study in research. In addition to rich 
description, which is a hallmark of the case study, 
the inclusion of other forms of description that are 
considered more objective, such as standardized 

108 Case Study Research in Political Science 

test results, rating scales, and physiological mea- 
surements, would make comparison with the 
population of interest easier. Replacing a single- 
assessment approach with multiple or continuous 
assessment would also strengthen the study. Prior 
to treatment, multiple or continuous assessments 
provide a baseline from which to predict future 
behavior and, therefore, the validity of observed 
changes following treatment. The timing and 
degree of the effect observed are other variables 
that can influence the power of a case study and 
infer a causal relationship. 

By definition, in case studies, the sample size is 
extremely limited (i.e., n = 1). From within an 
empiricist paradigm, this is viewed as a weakness. 
Kazdin suggests that case series in which several 
case studies with a common factor and similar 
response to a treatment are compiled may be a 
way to improve the generalizability of the observa- 
tions. In addition, the heterogeneity of the subjects, 
beyond the factors held in common, serves to pro- 
vide evidence that the effects observed are related 
to the common factors. 

T. Paslawski 

See also Case Study Research in Business and 

Management; Case Study Research in Education; Case 
Study Research in Psychology; Diagnostic Case Study 
Research; Epistemology; Generalizability; Program 
Evaluation and Case Study; Theory-Building With 
Cases; Theory-Testing With Cases 

Further Readings 

Atkins, D. (2007). Creating and synthesizing evidence 
with decision makers in mind: Integrating evidence 
from clinical trials and other study designs. Medical 
Care, 45(10, Suppl. 2), S16-S22. 

Bluhm, R. (2005). From hierarchy to network: A richer 
view of evidence from evidence-based medicine. 
Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 48, 535-547. 

Brighton, B., Bhandari, M., Tornetta, P., Ill, & Felson, D. 
T. (2003). Hierarchy of evidence: From case reports to 
randomized controlled trials. Clinical Orthopaedics 
and Related Research, 413, 19-24. 

The Cochrane Collaboration: 

Evidence Based Medicine Working Group. (1992). 

Evidence based medicine: A new approach to teaching 
the practice of medicine. Journal of the American 
Medical Association, 268, 2420-2425. 

Greenhalgh, T. (1999). Narrative based medicine: 

Narrative based medicine in an evidence based world. 
British Medical Journal, 318(7179), 323-325. 

Guyatt, G. H., Sackett, D. L., & Cook, D. J. (1993). 
Users' guides to the medical literature: II. How to use 
an article about therapy or prevention: Part A. Are the 
results of the study valid? Journal of the American 
Medical Association, 270, 2598-2601. 

Kazdin, A. E. (2003). Drawing valid inferences from case 
studies. In A. E. Kazdin (Ed.), Methodological issues 
and strategies in clinical research (3rd ed., pp. 655- 
669). Washington, DC: American Psychological 

Lipson, S. E., Sacks, O., & Devinsky, O. (2003). Selective 
emotional detachment from family after right temporal 
lobectomy. Epilepsy and Behavior, 4, 340-342. 

Miller, W. L., & Crabtree, B. F. (2003). Clinical research. 
In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Strategies of 
qualitative inquiry (2nd ed., pp. 397-434). Thousand 
Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Peipert, J. F., Gifford, D. S., & Boardman, L. A. (1997). 
Research design and methods of quantitative synthesis 
of medical evidence. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 90, 

Sacks, O., & Shulman, M. (2005). Steroid dementia: An 
overlooked diagnosis? Neurology, 64, 707-709. 

Scholz, R. W., & Tietje, O. (2002). Embedded case study 
methods: Integrating quantitative and qualitative 
knowledge. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Scoville, W. B., & Milner, B. (1957). Loss of recent 

memory after bilateral hippocampal lesions. Journal of 
Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, 20, 11-21. 

Sprague, S., McKay, P., & Thoma, A. (2008). Study 
design and hierarchy of evidence for surgical decision 
making. Clinics in Plastic Surgery, 35, 195-2005. 

Walden, R. R., Jerome, R. N., & Miller, R. S. (2007). 
Utilizing case reports to build awareness of rare 
complications in critical care. Journal of the Medical 
Library Association, 95, 3-8. 

Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: Design and 
methods (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Case Study Research 
in Political Science 

Political science has no single definition or appli- 
cation for what is known in the discipline as a case 
study. What it means to do a case study — whether 
this should be a single case or comparative 

Case Study Research in Political Science 109 

research, done in a traditional field research 
fashion or in an experimental mode, informed by 
interpretive presuppositions or realist ones — var- 
ies across disciplinary subfields, and these issues 
are contested in the discipline today. There is a 
rich history of case study research in bureaucracy, 
implementation, and other public administration 
and public policy studies, as well as a vibrant con- 
temporary methodological discussion within com- 
parative studies of political systems. 

Historical Meanings and 
Disciplinary Organization 

In part, the meaning of case study in political science 
draws on earlier meanings in other fields. One such 
is psychology, where case studies have been used 
since the mid-1 800s to capture details that provide 
insight into human behavior, as well as to develop 
clinical methods. Medical cases are used in similar 
ways. In social work, "casework," developed in the 
1920s, entails the detailed reporting of a client's his- 
tory and needs as a way to support analysis for 
intervening through the helping process. 

Another historical source is the Harvard Business 
School's development in the 1950s of "cases" as a 
method of instruction based on real-life contexts to 
encourage active learning, a usage developed fur- 
ther at the Maxwell and the Kennedy schools. 
These italicized features can be found in earlier 
political case studies, including Peter Blau's 1955 
The Dynamics of Bureaucracy and Graham Allison's 
1971 Essence of Decision, both of which serve as 
classic examples of case studies that demonstrate 
theorizing that is situated in real-life historical and 
contextual details of human action. How to access 
or generate such data details and how to establish 
and evaluate their scientific standing is the focus of 
debate over "case study method." 

To understand the role and meaning of case 
study within political science today, one needs to 
know something of its internal disciplinary organi- 
zation; and this varies by both department and 
country. North American political science typically 
has four subfields: political theory, national gov- 
ernment (e.g., American, Canadian), comparative 
politics, and international relations (including secu- 
rity studies). Public policy and public administra- 
tion, to the extent that they are still part of political 
science departments, are either separate or treated 

as part of national government studies. In Europe, 
political science is commonly referred to as politics 
or government studies and is only occasionally 
divided into subfields, such as European politics, 
international relations, or European public admin- 
istration. With the exception of political theory, all 
subfields draw on the case study as a method of 
analysis, but with different interpretations of what 
it means and how to do it. 

Whereas textbooks describe "the case study" as 
the most common method of analysis in political 
science, these words are then used to refer to a 
range of meanings and usages that vary from 
specific methods to a research approach. Those 
advancing "case study" as a set of methods — the 
predominant meaning — engage the concept as a 
specific form of research involving multi-site stud- 
ies aimed at establishing causal inferences and 
hypothesis testing. Those taking the second per- 
spective typically treat "case study" as part of a 
broader methodology that emphasizes human 
meaning and reflexivity. These scholars more often 
engage in single-site research aimed at detailing the 
lived experiences of persons in that setting. 

Despite their distinct histories and occasionally 
competing ontological and epistemological presup- 
positions, the discipline's subfields share a wide- 
spread agreement associating case studies closely 
with qualitative research. This comes from the fact 
that case studies rest on the intense study of lived 
human experiences by means of on-site field work 
and some combination of (participant) observa- 
tion, (in-depth) interviews, and/or document anal- 
ysis. Each of the two perspectives described above 
places a different accent on case study methodol- 
ogy. The intra-disciplinary divide concerns the 
extent to which case study research is perceived as 
becoming more and more detached from its 
human-, meaning-centered origins, along with a 
judgment on the desirability of that detachment. 

What began in the 1950s as the investigation of 
unique practices in sociopolitical life (the second 
perspective) has increasingly in the past quarter 
century been expected to change that approach, 
situating it instead in a methodological playing 
field that takes one understanding of natural sci- 
ence methods and techniques as the requirement 
for studies of the political to be seen as scientific. 
Recent textbooks formalizing case study research 
in political science in ways consistent with that 

110 Case Study Research in Political Science 

understanding have contributed to the develop- 
ment of intra-disciplinary disagreements over the 
character of case study research. 

Meaning-Centered Origins: Single-Site Studies 

Early case studies, and many done today, consist 
largely of single-site studies that allow researchers 
to immerse themselves in the uniqueness of real- 
life events in what might be called a traditional 
Chicago School approach. The analysis is induc- 
tive and human centered and is driven by a desire 
to learn about the potentially multiple social reali- 
ties that characterize the setting and its "actors" 
(or "members"). In this form, the case study is 
perhaps the most archetypal qualitative methodol- 
ogy of all, paralleling Chicago School participant 
observation in sociology, especially the community 
and occupational studies, and ethnographic study 
in anthropology characteristic of the 1 930s through 
the 1960s. 

The meaning-centered case study perspective is 
rooted in single-site studies. "Single-site" has been 
equated by some methodologists with single "n" 
studies, a point that is important for understanding 
contemporary disagreements about the value of 
case study research. Simply stated, a single-site 
study refers to research carried out in one relatively 
bounded setting (e.g., a governmental organiza- 
tion, a community), whereas a single "n" study 
refers to the number of observations conducted as 
part of experimental research. "Observation" 
means different things. Field research-based case 
studies engage in observation understood in an 
ethnographic sense, meaning that the number of 
"observations" — people spoken with, conversa- 
tions conducted, events and/or interactions seen 
and/or participated in, documents read, and 
more — is not coterminous with the number of loca- 
tions in which the case study is carried out. 

From this perspective, a single-site case study 
generates a multitude of qualitative-interpretive, 
within-case "observations" reflecting patterns of 
interaction, organizational practices, social rela- 
tions, routines, actions, and so on. And when 
"setting" is understood from an open systems per- 
spective, the number of sites may also multiply, 
especially as one traces the focus of study — say, a 
policy being implemented — across the full range 
of actions entailed. Observation as treated in an 

experimental sense — the source of single "n" ter- 
minology — is based on the principle that a larger 
number of cases subjected to analysis yields more 
valid general principles, another logic altogether. 

In the national government subfield, for exam- 
ple, a case study might analyze an institution, 
such as the courts or political leadership. Richard 
Fenno's 1978 case study of members of the U.S. 
Congress involved "soaking and poking," accom- 
panying and interviewing them as they traveled 
about their districts. While the single site was the 
Congress, Fenno investigated the tactics, percep- 
tions, and overall political behavior of the elected 
representatives in multiple home sites. 

Case study research has also been used for 
exploring local government and/or agency levels, 
especially within public policy and administration 
subfields. Herbert Kaufman's 1960 case study of 
the U.S. Forest Service examined the practices of 
various management strategies for shaping the 
behavior of its far-flung employees: a single agency, 
but multiple geographic sites. Jeffrey Pressman and 
Aaron Wildavsky's 1973 case study on the local 
implementation of U.S. economic development 
policies identified the twists and turns in multilevel 
decision making as the reason that agreeing on 
policy objectives was a lot less complicated than 
implementing them — another single case, here with 
multiple organizational and departmental settings. 

These three case studies offer contextualized 
insights into the unique, situated practices of 
human political life. They represent a period in 
political science when "single-site" case studies 
were common. As qualitative researchers have 
come under increasing pressure, especially follow- 
ing the publication of Gary King, Robert Keohane, 
and Sidney Verba's 1994 Designing Social Inquiry, 
to conform their research more and more to large 
"n" studies, they have increased their attention to 
theorizing about case study methodology, particu- 
larly within the subfield of comparative politics, 
with a noticeable recent growth in methods books 
and a turn toward analytic approaches aspiring to 
match the logic of quantitative research. This 
marks one of the intra-disciplinary splits between 
those "qualitative" researchers who accept this 
approach (whether they do single- or multi-sited 
studies) and those "interpretive" researchers who 
follow less realist approaches under a broader 
understanding of science. 

Case Study Research in Political Science 111 

The Case Study as Controlled Research: 
Multi-Site Studies 

Multi-site case study analysis is a hallmark of the 
comparative politics subfield, which has, to a large 
extent, laid claim to comparative case study 
research as its own, unique method. Like single- 
site case study scholars, multi-site comparativists 
draw upon case studies to explore human diversity, 
although they are perhaps more inclined to use 
these cases to establish general propositions about 
human conditions and interactions. In some 
instances, comparative case studies are used as a 
way to focus on detailed analysis of human diver- 
sity with the aim of revealing uniqueness. Theda 
Skocpol's 1979 comparative historical case analy- 
sis of the unique social revolutions in France, 
Russia, and China aimed at general theoretical 
understanding concerning what leads to political 
revolution. Robert Putnam's 1994 comparative 
case study of regional government in Italy ana- 
lyzed the significance of civic community for thriv- 
ing democratic government. 

Adding "comparative" to "case study" brings 
additional methodological requirements concern- 
ing project design and research objectives. By iden- 
tifying and distinguishing between dependent and 
independent variables, comparative case studies 
examine covariation across case data, by contrast 
with single-case studies done from a qualitative 
approach, which typically search out congruence 
between theory and data, looking for theory- 
driven within-case expectations; and with single- 
case studies done from an interpretive approach, 
which are more likely today to appear as ethno- 
graphic or participant observer studies and which 
often use case material to explore particular theo- 
retical issues. 

Comparison is treated as a "controlled" 
approach to research whereby the researcher is 
said to explore similarities and differences system- 
atically, based on a predetermined classification of 
cases (e.g., J. S. Mill's method of difference or 
method of agreement). Research design, then, puts 
great emphasis on the criteria for comparability as 
the force driving case selection. Most qualitative 
comparative case study scholars make reference to 
small "n" comparative studies; most speak of vari- 
ables, about inference and control, classification 
and typology. 

The aim of controlled study — generalization — is 
advocated, on the whole, by case study scholars 
following positivist ontological and epistemologi- 
cal presuppositions and their associated methods 
of inquiry. This variables- and causal inference- 
centered approach parallels the work associated 
with large "n," statistics-based research. The focus 
on law-like generalizations that this entails runs 
counter to a more interpretive approach that 
focuses, instead, on verstehen, thick description, 
reflexivity, and other such elements for establish- 
ing the trustworthiness of the research. 

Proponents of qualitative comparative case 
study research differ from their quantitative col- 
leagues in that they limit the number of sites they 
study (fewer than six seems to be the rule of 
thumb), and they mix numerical and word forms 
of reporting in an effort to combine generalization 
and uniqueness. This latter idea is one advanced 
largely by Charles Ragin, who claims that com- 
parative case studies not only assess general causal 
relationships but also have the ability to generate 
in-depth, contextual understanding. Looking from 
the outside, the methodological views of these 
qualitative scholars appear to be merging with 
quantitative researchers, both of them advancing a 
shared notion of science. 

A 1971 article by political scientist Arend 
Lijphart sheds some light on these developments. 
Lijphart used natural science logic in assessing 
methods of scientific inquiry for conducting politi- 
cal research. He prescribed a general set of 
methods ranked by scientific value aimed at gener- 
alization and causation with the goal of producing 
scientific explanations. He listed experimentation 
as the first and most desirable method for scientific 
inquiry, followed by the statistical method, the 
comparative case method, and, last, the (single) 
case study method (which, albeit, is closely con- 
nected to the comparative method). Lijphart's 
hierarchy is based on the degree of control, the 
manifestation of time order, and the presence and 
strength of association, all of which are marshaled 
in support of causal inference. According to this 
ranking, a method becomes less "scientific" as it 
digresses from an experimental research design. 
This hierarchy of scientific methods and tradition 
of privileging methods that establish causality are 
carried through to today's methodological debates 
concerning the scope and methods of analysis that 

112 Case Study Research in Political Science 

are to characterize the political science discipline, 
including the place of case study among them. 

The Contemporary Scientific Environment 
for Political Science Research 

At the moment, that form of case study research 
that places case studies squarely among other 
methods aiming for causal explanations is on the 
rise. This is evident in the considerable attention 
given to developments in and applications of tech- 
niques such as qualitative comparative analysis 
(QCA), optimal sequence matching, necessary 
condition arguments, and typological methods for 
analyzing cases. Textbooks single these out as 
advancements in case study research, on the argu- 
ment that they provide a step toward a desired 
methodological "rigor" while safeguarding tradi- 
tional case study features. 

Contemporary methodologists like Andrew 
Bennett, Henry Brady, David Collier, Alexander 
George, John Gerring, and Gary King have worked 
to develop case study research in these ways in 
response to critiques concerning what these 
researchers have perceived as the limitations of 
more meaning-focused, traditional forms of case 
studies. While these developments encourage 
reflection on the character of the method, the 
changes reflect a narrow understanding of science 
that rests on such terminology as selection bias, 
(internal) validity, reliability, and generalization. 

A technical, detached, and often complex lan- 
guage recurs in the wealth of case study textbook 
chapters dedicated to presenting methodological 
safeguards for case study research. Entire chapters 
engage such procedures as "process-tracing" (with- 
in-case analysis to track links between likely causes 
and outcomes), "typological theorizing" (contin- 
gent generalizations based on systematic compari- 
son and case selection), and "path dependency" 
(time reference used to explain causes and choices). 
All of these are intended to refute challenges to 
internal validity and selection bias attributed to 
case study research. This language assumes onto- 
logical and epistemological presuppositions associ- 
ated with positivist and sometimes critical realist 
philosophies, at the expense of engaging with case 
study methods informed by interpretive philo- 
sophical presuppositions that would emphasize 
such criteria as thickly described narratives of 

situated lived experience, research positionality 
and reflexivity, and the multiple possible meanings 
of political language, acts, and physical artifacts. 

These trends might be understood as a commit- 
ment to ensuring a competitive position for case 
study research in contemporary political science by 
updating earlier case study notions with newer, 
more effective tools. Alternatively, the trends could 
be interpreted as a defensive posture — the after- 
math of a lingering 1963 remark by Donald 
Campbell and Julian Stanley about how single case 
studies had no scientific value. The King, Keohane, 
and Verba advocacy of a single approach to scien- 
tific inference for both the natural and the social 
sciences might also be understood to play a role. 
Either interpretation is indicative of a decisive turn 
toward the systemization of case study procedures 
in a particular direction, and this is portrayed in 
textbooks as a way forward for qualitative case 
study scholars. 

Evaluating Case Studies and Concepts 

Many of the aforementioned contemporary case 
study scholars explicitly promote combining quan- 
titative and qualitative methods and devote con- 
siderable attention to issues of design as a way 
of ensuring scientific rigor. Their methodological 
writings focus on orderly, systemized, and verifi- 
able case study procedures. Case study's use for a 
more interpretive understanding of social and 
human life is increasingly less visible. While it is 
still possible to find some references to the advan- 
tages of case study research for offering real-life 
insight into social phenomena, flexibility of meth- 
ods, and sensible translations of theory, as in Bent 
Flyvbjerg's 2001 work, it is by far more common 
to find references to its (newfound) potential for 
testing hypotheses, examining causal mechanisms 
in detail, assessing the reliability of inferences, or 
developing internally valid measures of concepts. 

A fair amount of discussion, especially in com- 
parative politics, has focused on concept forma- 
tion and definition and the extent to which the 
operationalization of concepts needs to be 
grounded in the case study at hand. This point lies 
at the heart of the differences between qualitative 
and interpretive case study research design and 
methods. The debate concerns a priori versus situ- 
ated concept formation; that is, the stipulation of 

Case Study Research in Political Science 113 

concept meanings that are defined prior to the 
research versus "meanings-in-use" that are allowed 
to emerge during field work in the course of the 
research. A priori concept formation is prominent 
in comparative or multi-site case study research 
and goes hand in hand with a "controlled" case 
study research design. The argument for such an 
approach is that even though concepts may have 
different meanings in use, this is a matter of 
degrees of difference rather than differences in 
type of concept, making comparison possible. 

Other scholars argue that conceptual meanings 
cannot be fixed in the abstract, that they are highly 
contextualized. In such an approach, the uses of 
terms and definitions are linked to unique experi- 
ences and embedded in time and space; influenced 
by linguistic, country and/or regional, organiza- 
tional, and/or communal history and situation. 
The argument emphasizes the need to understand 
concepts as rooted each in its own particular set- 
ting. Frederic Schaffer's 1998 Democracy in 
Translation, studying the meaning of "democracy" 
to the people of Senegal, is an example. 

The general claim that case study research is a 
qualitative method remains, but scholars differ on 
the meaning of this label in the argumentation for 
case study research. 

Critical Summary 

Case study research remains a central method of 
analysis in contemporary political science 
research, despite periods of more and less accep- 
tance and the rupture between those who wish to 
preserve its earlier form and those trying to bring 
it closer to quantitative modes. Growing atten- 
tion to methods and methodology in the context 
of particular meanings of "science" is also 
reflected in the textbooks. Until fairly recently, 
case study methods textbooks were rare and, for 
a while, Robert Yin's 1984 text (in various edi- 
tions) was the only one available. It was an influ- 
ential piece, but it has taken case study's 
traditionally more interpretive focus in realist, 
positivist directions. 

A large part of today's methodological treat- 
ments of case study research in political science 
comes from comparative politics scholars, and that 
subfield is currently providing significant impetus 
in the direction of multi-sited, comparative case 

study research. Those methodologists are making 
every effort to articulate what comprises a case 
study in order to increase its acceptance in a wider, 
largely quantitatively oriented methodological 
playing field. More and more, case studies are 
being described as ranging between little detail 
across many cases and a lot of detail for a few or 
a single case. Prior notions of meaning-giving 
inquiry are either being bypassed or overshadowed 
by specific terms and methods that ignore interpre- 
tive inquiry in favor of attention to variables-based 
causal inferences. 

While it is difficult to anticipate the future of 
case study research in political science, it can be 
said that much depends on how present method- 
ological debates unfold and how intensely political 
scientists hold on to earlier forms of case study 
research as a legitimate way of doing science. 

Dvora Yanow, Peregrine Schwartz-Shea, 
and Maria Jose Freitas 

See also Comparative Case Study; Constructivism; 
Ontology; Power/Knowledge; Qualitative Analysis in 
Case Study; Reflexivity; Thick Description; Verstehen 

Further Readings 

Collier, D. (1993). The comparative method. In 

A. W. Finifter (Ed.), Political science: The state of the 

discipline II (pp. 105-109). Washington, DC: 

American Political Science Association. 
Flyvbjerg, B. (2001). Making social science matter: Why 

social inquiry fails and how it can succeed again. 

New York: Cambridge University Press. 
George, A. L., & Bennett, A. (2005). Case studies and 

theory development in the social sciences. Cambridge: 

MIT Press. 
Gerring, J. (2007). Case study research: Principles and 

practices. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University 

Lijphart, A. (1971). Comparative politics and the 

comparative method. American Political Science 

Review, 65(3), 682-693. 
Mill, J. S. (1856). A system of logic, ratiocinative and 

inductive, being a connected view of the principles of 

evidence, and the methods of scientific investigation 

(4th ed.). London: Parker. 
Ragin, C. C, & Becker, H. S. (Eds.). (1992). What is a 

case? Exploring the foundations of social inquiry. 

Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 

114 Case Study Research in Psychology 

Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: Design and 
methods (4th ed.)- Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Case Study Research 
in Psychology 

Case studies in psychology reconstruct a major 
episode in people's lives by identifying a particular 
set of problematic or otherwise interesting events 
and relationships that naturally occurred in the 
real world. They can be studied or understood 
only in their context as they merge with their envi- 
ronment, so it is difficult to draw precise boundar- 
ies. The analysis and interpretation of case studies 
is most often intended to lead to a better under- 
standing of the area of inquiry; that is, deriving or 
testing theories. Depending on the branch of psy- 
chology that uses case study, not only individual 
processes and possible solutions to their problems 
may be the focus but also processes within groups, 
institutions, or communities. Psychological case 
studies can have many forms, such as narrative 
accounts, detailed technical or judicial reports, 
documentary films, or sets of observations. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Psychological case studies focus on individuals, 
though different interpretations are possible that 
include context or time dimensions. They fre- 
quently share characteristics with case studies in 
other disciplines within social sciences whose focal 
points are description and analysis of contextual 
factors, social structures, and processes in order to 
reach a more global understanding of events. 

Most psychological case studies are retrospec- 
tive in style and follow an idiographic approach 
wherein both qualitative and quantitative proceed- 
ings are feasible. Apart from a description of the 
events that are to be examined, psychological case 
studies most often include a causal analysis of cen- 
tral problems, and sometimes also recommenda- 
tions for courses of action based on the analysis. 

Wilensky's 1983 study proposes a general the- 
ory of psychological case studies that helps to 
assess whether a case study is a psychological one, 
and to judge its quality as well. According to him, 
a psychological case study consists of a person, 

specified by the formula "identity + description"; 
a situation, characterized by "constraints + oppor- 
tunities + contingencies"; and a related outcome, 
being "changes in person + changes in situation." 
In differentiation from life histories that consist 
of a series of case studies about one person, psy- 
chological case studies address only a particular 
pattern of behavior in a particular set of circum- 
stances over a limited period of time. 


Psychological case studies are of relatively recent 
origin and have their sources in psychiatry and 
social work; they have been used as a research 
method since the early part of the 20th century. 
These early psychological case studies were mod- 
eled on medical methods; that is, they often con- 
tained short clinical case vignettes or brief reports 
on personality description and social relationships. 

After World War II, experimental and psycho- 
metric approaches became dominant and displaced 
case study research to clinical psychology and per- 
sonality studies. Due to this development, the sci- 
entific character of case studies has never been 
explored thoroughly, and case studies are often 
neglected in textbooks except for some contribu- 
tions on the specialized single-case experimental 
method. Therefore, there is no general agreement 
on the organization, content, or employment of 
case studies in psychology. Often they are con- 
ducted for practical purposes and their theoretical 
aspects are neglected. Over the past 15 years a 
major growth of nonexperimental case study 
research can be observed within ecological psy- 
chology, a branch that is studying humans' interac- 
tions with their environment. 


In psychology, several different methodological 
approaches can be found. The positivist style is 
interested in developing a generalizable theory or 
laws from evidence by deductive procedures: that 
is, studying literature, working out which theories 
might be adequate, and setting up experiments to 
gather new data to test the theory. 

Researchers who follow a naturalistic approach 
cannot be sure that existing theories are relevant 
for the case under investigation as human behavior 

Case Study Research in Psychology 115 

is unique and specific; thus generalizations are dif- 
ficult to make. Therefore they prefer an emergent 
design, that is, creating theories inductively and 
intending to make sense of the data they found 
only after they have found them. They are on the 
lookout for qualitative elements that lie behind 
more objective evidence, such as how people 
understand themselves or their setting. They do 
not ignore objective data — for example, staff 
turnover — but search for underlying reasons in the 
process, thus examining people's emotions, percep- 
tions, and experiences of what is going on. 

Researchers of both traditions have to be aware 
of the fact that research investigation is never neu- 
tral as there will be effects on individuals or orga- 
nizations just because there is someone who is 
asking questions or observing people. 

Closely linked to the differentiation between 
positivist and naturalistic approaches are ideo- 
graphic and nomothetic traditions within psychol- 
ogy. Researchers who work with case studies often 
come from an ideographic tradition, that is, their 
goal is to understand how this very person or event 
developed the way it did. The goal is not to con- 
firm or expand experiences to form any law about 
people in general, but to focus on the particular 
and individual to understand meanings. According 
to ideographic tradition, nomothetic appendages 
deal with group averages and not with particular 
cases, whereby no information about individuals 
can be drawn from group data. Statistical data 
tend to suggest there would be a "modal individ- 
ual," but in fact these data are indeterministic and 
construct people that in reality do not exist. 

Case studies are not only explorative in their 
nature, they are rather much more realistic than 
other designs as they are closer to data. They allow 
reference to similarities between different persons 
although these persons are dissimilar at first sight, 
and vice versa. They may also point to factors that 
would have been neglected in a larger group study 
or reveal flaws in theoretical conceptions and give 
hints for how theories may be revised. Their aim is 
to demonstrate existence, and not incidence, of a 
particular feature. 

Nevertheless, quantitative data, that is, descrip- 
tive or summarizing numerical data and inferential 
statistics such as correlations, may play a role in 
case study research. Records on seasonal effects, 
trends, sex, and age differences, for instance, may 

be useful supplements as they allow cross-checking 
with other data and increasing the internal validity 
of a case study. 

It is furthermore important to differentiate 
between extensive and intensive research designs. 
The former means specifying all members of a 
class to define that class; the latter implies indicat- 
ing the properties something needs to be a member 
of that class. Intensive designs therefore take one 
single case, presume certain properties of the class 
on a trial basis, and try to construct an extension. 
Psychology most often tends to prefer extensive 
designs, though they are not suitable for many 
psychological questions. 

Some psychologists work with case studies that 
aim at establishing case laws (i.e., laws that are 
each generated for a specific case and then can be 
combined to formulate a more general law) by 
analytic induction, a procedure that is well known 
in sociology. This procedure shows that ideo- 
graphic procedure and a search for nomothetic 
laws are not necessarily contradictory, and combi- 
nations between them do exist. 

First, one has to generate a tentative hypotheti- 
cal explanation about an interesting phenomenon, 
then take a single case and test by qualitative or 
numerical methods (e.g., cluster analysis) as to 
how far the explanation fits. If necessary, the 
hypothesis is modified to make it fit the case. The 
modified explanation is then tested with the next 
single case and the hypothesis is revised. This pro- 
cess is continued through a number of cases. Cases 
are thereby not selected based on usual demo- 
graphic sampling considerations, as the interest is 
to describe and analyze categories of human 
behavior or types of persons. 

By employing this iterative procedure, the final 
resulting hypothesis has much stronger explana- 
tory power. It is also possible to search for negative 
cases to disconfirm one's hypothesis and thus 
make the proposed hypothesis as critical as possi- 
ble. A successful hypothesis, then, is true for most 
of the cases tested, because a final hypothesis that 
is true of all cases is impossible in practice. The 
produced explanation is as provisional as every 
other scientific explanation, independent of the 
procedure that had been followed. 

The result of a single case study is insufficient to 
confirm a universal hypothesis; it can only reject a 
hypothesis. However, it does not necessarily falsify 

116 Case Study Research in Psychology 

the entire universal hypothesis, instead it debili- 
tates the hypothesis that was formulated and 
examined in the context of specific constraints. A 
rejection of a hypothesis is not the death of the 
theory. It indicates, in fact, that additional assump- 
tions are to be made; that is, the failure of the 
theory may be due to factors other than the theory 
itself, such as wrong implicit assumptions. 


Case studies are found in many different areas of 
psychology, ranging from clinical psychology to 
neuropsychology, and from complex problem- 
solving to cross-cultural psychology. Their use is 
likewise varied. It may range from case studies 
being used in a clinical context as analysis of a 
person's case in the form of a single case analysis 
or comparative case studies, or as a basis for the 
development of simulation games in the domain of 
complex problem solving. People themselves may 
work on specific case information, or the investi- 
gators may analyze the case. The number of cases 
under analysis may range from intensive study of 
few cases to less intensive study of many cases. 

Case studies are usually used in combination 
with other methods, such as participant observa- 
tion or questionnaires, sometimes together with 
sources that provide quantifiable data (triangula- 
tion). Case studies may be used for exploratory 
reasons, but they also allow for gradual develop- 
ment of a case law as several single cases are writ- 
ten up and considered in relation to each other. 
They then may provide valid and reliable results 
that are grounded in data and can be replicated or 
confirmed by employing further methods. Apart 
from use in research contexts, they may also be 
used for teaching and training purposes, such as 
situational analysis, decision making, theory con- 
struction, or simply as illustrations for theoretical 

When developing a case study, multiple forms 
of evidence should be collected and studied in suf- 
ficient detail. Analogous to what the social anthro- 
pologist Clifford Geertz said about research into 
culture, research into any person or organization 
has to begin with describing in detail what one has 
found — "thick description" — thereby paying 
attention to the fine-grained details and pondering 
them. After getting to know the case in its setting 

and reading literature that may be of relevance, 
one can decide about broad aims and formulate 
one's research questions. Evidence may come 
along in the form of documents, records, inter- 
views, detached or nonparticipant observation, 
participant observation, or physical artifacts. It is 
considered useful to maintain a research log con- 
taining notes on evidence, as well as personal 
notes such as insights or questions to cope with 
complexity and to document the process of one's 
own reasoning. 

Critical Summary 


Psychological case studies contribute several 
benefits. First, they provide a rich data base and 
procure process information. The researcher can 
thereby gain a detailed picture of individual pro- 
cesses and reveal important individual differences 
between several cases. Using case law methodol- 
ogy and following a bottom-up principle, conclu- 
sions from particular cases can be drawn to types 
of cases. Adding further cases may lead to a deeper 
understanding of events and refine the conceptual 
framework until additional cases no longer add 
new information. 

Furthermore, case studies prevent simplifying 
matters too much. They do not take into account 
only broad structural or demographic variables 
but allow for reconstructing the complex causal 
structure that lies behind an event and that can be 
examined from an insider's view, that is, the 
involved persons, as well as from the external 
point of view of the researcher. 


Some reservations against case studies should 
also be mentioned. Scientists claim that investiga- 
tors may distort results in that their descriptions 
and analyses are not exhaustive but selective and 
subjective or, as the researcher defines the issue, 
arbitrary. Furthermore, premature generalizations 
may occur and circularity may be caused when 
testing and developing a theory within the same set 
of data. Apart from that, it is argued that case 
studies help only in defining a problem and often 
lack an explication of boundary conditions when 
hypotheses are examined. 

Case Study Research in Public Policy 117 


A well-defined case study should reduce subjective 
factors to a minimum, for instance by incorporating 
several independent sources. Besides, evidence and 
inference are to be separated and reasons for conclu- 
sions should be given. Furthermore, investigators 
should make sure that original data can be reexam- 
ined, and should take boundary conditions into 
account when analyzing a case. Whether one works 
with case studies or not should not be a matter of 
ideology but depend on the purpose one pursues. 
Therefore the question is, when might case studies be 
used in psychological research and when not. Case 
studies are rather valuable when researchers are inter- 
ested in process information. They are also appropri- 
ate when hypotheses are investigated that make direct 
statements about individuals, but not when the 
hypotheses refer to classes of subjects or fictitious 
statistical modal individuals. Single case studies may 
also be beneficial for guiding decisions about which 
experimental factors could be important for group 
studies, thus taking on a filtering function. 

For instance, when studying complex problem 
solving by working with computer simulations, 
group designs are more or less useless as it is dif- 
ficult to control experimental factors precisely. 
Different individuals will develop rather different 
representations of the task; thus investigators have 
to deal with heterogeneous internal representa- 
tions that may change over the course of time. In 
group studies, such process information would be 
ignored. In this case it would make sense to follow 
a case law approach, thus studying various single 
cases and deriving hypotheses about dependencies 
and determinants of problem-solving processes 
that then can be implemented in a computer pro- 
gram that generates synthetic behavior. This can 
subsequently be compared with empirical perfor- 
mance and finally lead to an adaptation of the 
underlying model in the event of deviation. 

Susanne Starke and Stefan Strob Schneider 

See also Configurative-Ideographic Case Study; Theory- 
Building With Cases; Triangulation 

Further Readings 

Bromley, D. B. (1986). The case-study method in psychology 
and related disciplines. Chichester, UK: Wiley. 

Gillham, B. (2000). Case study research methods. New 
York: Continuum. 

Kluwe, R. H. (1995). Single case studies and models of 
complex problem solving. In P. Frensch & J. Funke 
(Eds.), Complex problem solving: The European 
perspective (pp. 269-291). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence 

Smith, J. A., Harre, R., & van Langenhove, L. (1995). 
Idiography and the case study. In J. A. Smith, 
R. Harre, & L. van Langenhove (Eds.), Rethinking 
psychology (pp. 59-69). London: Sage. 

Case Study Research 
in Public Policy 

Case study research in public policy is a qualita- 
tive research method that is used to enhance our 
understanding of the policy-making process. By 
using case studies, one can learn how public policy 
is designed and implemented. Public policy case 
studies provide insight not only into decision- 
making processes, but also into the political and 
organizational environments from which public 
policy emerges. Through the use of public policy 
case studies, one is able to test case study research 
data against a range of decision-making theories 
and models. Public policy case study research can 
be used as a pedagogical tool as well as a form of 
applied research. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Definitions of public policy usually begin with 
Thomas Dye's observation that public policy is 
based upon governments choosing to take action 
or not to take action. Based upon this definition, 
public policy is a general concept that can be 
applied to a wide variety of government activities 
and behaviors. Public policy is generally associated 
with the actions of government. Governments 
have two basic functions — to regulate and to pro- 
vide programs and services. Regulations emanate 
from executive and legislative authorities. That 
authority is legally vested in public agencies or 
professional bodies. The policy impact of public 
agencies on our lives is so overwhelming that many 
citizens simply accept much of that authority as a 
natural part of their existence. Usually it is not 

118 Case Study Research in Public Policy 

until things go wrong, such as the recall of tainted 
food, the discovery of unsafe drinking water, the 
importation of toys with lead paint, or a deregula- 
tion-driven institutional financial crisis, that citi- 
zens become aware of and demand immediate 
action from public authorities. Government regu- 
lations extend beyond the domestic sphere into the 
field of international relations, covering such mat- 
ters as foreign policy, international financial and 
security agreements, trade delegations, and multi- 
governmental organizations. 

The provision of public programs and services is 
largely dependent upon the ability of governments 
to fund such services. Public programs and services 
cover such large fields as healthcare, education, 
social services, labor, justice and policing, national 
defense and state security, agriculture, fisheries, the 
environment, immigration, and public works. 

Public policy research focuses on trying to 
observe, as much as possible, what is going on 
within these large fields. The resultant studies pro- 
vide rich, often minute detail on the real-world 
policy actions of public authorities. Those observ- 
able actions can take place at the international, 
national, regional, and local levels of government. 
Public policy research has grown significantly over 
a relatively short period of time. The public's thirst 
for knowledge and a better understanding of the 
policy-making process has grown in the era of 
e-government, because of easier access to informa- 
tion and continued demands for greater transpar- 
ency on how public dollars are spent. Government 
departments and agencies are also being pressed to 
state policy priorities clearly and to provide accom- 
panying documentation in order to explain various 
roles, responsibilities, and organizational account- 
ability in the policy development process. 

Public policy and public administration, another 
major subfield of political science, are concerned 
with the theory and practice of government. Case 
study research in public policy is an important 
analytical tool that can illuminate the actions of 
various policy actors in attempting to influence the 
policy-making process. Illuminating policy influ- 
encing factors allows for the interplay between 
formal presentations of public policy decision- 
making theory and actual practice. Moreover, case 
study research in public policy attempts to bridge 
the gap between the academic world of rational- 
normative approaches as to how public policy 

should be made and the imperfect, real world of 
policy making. The difficulty in developing theo- 
retical explanations for public policy outcomes 
sometimes arises from the view that government 
officials often "bill themselves" as avowedly prag- 
matic when it comes to the policy decision-making 

Theoretical Models and Perspectives 

There is, however, no shortage of prescriptive 
theoretical models and perspectives that offer ana- 
lytical and descriptive explanations as to the how 
and why governments, managers, and public ser- 
vants act the way they do. Some deterministic 
theoretical models such as Marxism explore the 
structural limitations of what policy actors can 
and cannot do. Dynamic theories such as pluralism 
and public choice emphasize the open-ended, com- 
petitive nature of democratic political systems. 
Then there are the theoretical models that focus 
more specifically on individual and group organi- 
zational actors in the policy decision-making pro- 
cess. Understanding the basis for what governments 
will or will not do is at its most difficult stage 
when academic public policy and public adminis- 
tration writers attempt to provide theoretical 
explanations for various policy outcomes. 

Theoretical models that focus on organizational 
actors help public policy and public administration 
researchers understand the complexity of the pol- 
icy development process from a number of differ- 
ent viewpoints. 

There are three theoretical models that com- 
monly appear in the introductory literature on 
public policy. These models compete with, but are 
also complementary to, one another. The first 
model is called rationalism or the rational- 
comprehensive model. Rationalism, as the term 
would imply, is a normative and a descriptive 
model that speaks to how governments should 
thoroughly plan and critically analyze each policy 
decision, in terms of clearly stated objectives, 
goals, and outcomes. Once decisions are taken, the 
subsequent program activity associated with the 
policy decision must be evaluated and analyzed. 
James R. Anderson developed the "rational" 
model because of the importance he placed on the 
need for management to have as much information 
as possible in order to develop department-wide 

Case Study Research in Public Policy 119 

planning fully, or what we might refer to today as 
a horizontal approach. 

The second model is called incrementalism. 
Incrementalism is sometimes referred to as the 
muddling-through approach because of the mod- 
el's analysis of the conservative nature of govern- 
ment public policy decision making. Charles 
Lindbloom argues that the incrementalist model 
most closely approximates the real world of policy 
making as government policymakers closely fol- 
low traditional organizational methods and prac- 
tices when they address current problems. Any 
changes to the application of those methods and 
practices are usually done on an incremental basis. 
Lindbloom eschews the grand planning exercises 
associated with the rational model in favor of 
decision-making processes that are easy to com- 
prehend and implement, as policymakers often do 
not have the time, the resources, or the kind of 
information that would be required for more 
elaborate exercises. A third model, mixed scan- 
ning, combines the rational and incrementalist 
models through the work of Amitai Etzioni. He 
argued that while public policy-makers will make 
incremental changes most of the time, fundamen- 
tal changes will also occur based on a rationalist 
approach to significant policy challenges. Govern- 
ments choose the incrementalist or rationalist 
approach based on policy research obtained 
through scanning their environment. 

Each of the three prescriptive theoretical models 
of decision making seems quite plausible, and 
advocates will strongly expound the respective 
theoretical merits of their model based upon case 


A typical public policy case study is composed of 
an abstract, a case introduction, case instructions 
of what kind of action is required of the partici- 
pants, accompanying documentation, and some 
possible options for consideration. Through inter- 
action with a public policy case study, learners are 
able to explore different competing viewpoints, 
develop their own decision-making process, and 
explore the potential consequences of their deci- 
sions. They also learn that no policy decision is 
perfect, given the atmosphere from which public 
policy develops. Public policy case studies do have 

an advantage, based upon the political nature of 
the subject matter, of being able to tell a good 
story. Eliciting interest on the part of the learner is 
an important aspect of any pedagogical tool. 

Case study research in public policy has become 
an important learning tool in graduate programs 
in public policy, public health, public administra- 
tion, and business administration. The cases are 
used to provide learners with an understanding of 
the public policy process in terms of how govern- 
ment creates, develops, and implements public 
policy. The Kennedy School of Government, 
Harvard University, is, according to its Web site, 
the world's largest producer and repository of case 
studies designed for teaching how government 
works, how public policy is made, and how non- 
profit organizations operate. A wide range of case 
study topics is grouped alphabetically under a 
range of categories. 

The Institute of Public Administration of Canada 
(IPAC) has a case program in public administra- 
tion that has produced 160 cases in a variety of 
areas. IPAC case studies are developed by public 
servants, academics, and students in order to pro- 
vide insight into the public policy decision-making 
process. Case topic areas include administrative 
ethics, financial prioritizing, health-related policy 
decisions, what to include in important communi- 
cations documents, labor relations issues, manag- 
ing environmental disasters, intergovernmental 
negotiations, dealing with scandals, workplace 
discrimination, and how senior public servants 
deal with an ongoing issue. 

Perhaps the most famous case study in public 
policy is Essence of Decision: Explaining the 
Cuban Missile Crisis by Graham T. Allison. 
According to Robert Yin, this formative single case 
study of policy decision making functions as both 
an explanatory case study and a descriptive case 
study. The case study focuses on crisis management 
decision making at the executive government level, 
with participants looking to advance the interests 
of their own organizational units. The policy deci- 
sions that were ultimately taken substantiate 
Allison's famous dictum that where you stand may 
largely depend upon where you sit. By examining 
the motivations of various policymakers, analytical 
insight was developed into how and why certain 
decisions were taken by the White House. An 
atmosphere of crisis management existed at that 

120 Case Study Research in Public Policy 

time because precipitous action might have led to a 
nuclear confrontation between the United States 
and the Soviet Union. After a detailed exploration 
of the policy decision-making process, Allison put 
forth and analyzed the "rational actor," "organiza- 
tional process," and "governmental politics" theo- 
ries as possible explanatory models for the strategic 
decisions that were taken by both sides in the 
period leading up to and including the Cuban mis- 
sile crisis. The descriptive and explanatory power 
of Allison's case study has led to continuous debate 
regarding the lessons and theoretical models associ- 
ated with the single case study. Yin points out that 
the explanatory power of that case study has 
caused researchers to generalize beyond the politi- 
cal case narrative into a wide range of government 
policy activities. A second, coauthored edition of 
the case study was released in 1999. This edition 
took declassified government documents and 
recordings into account as well as updated inter- 
views with the then-current senior public officials. 
The result was that some theoretical positions were 
substantiated because of the new materials while 
other theoretical positions were put into question. 

Designing case study research in public policy 
involves planning, conceptualization, analysis, and 
communication. According to Ann Majchrzak, 
some of the most important activities in the policy 
research process will occur during the initial plan- 
ning period. In order to focus on a potential public 
policy topic, a researcher needs to build up a level 
of knowledge so that the feasibility of a potential 
study can be determined and the purpose of such a 
study can be established. A comprehensive litera- 
ture review will allow the researcher to build up 
that level of knowledge. From there, a set of initial 
research questions based upon a tentative theory 
or model can be developed. Case selection follows. 
Will a single case or multiple cases be chosen? 
There is certainly no shortage of potential public 
policy cases to choose from. The selection of the 
case study should be based on the purpose of the 
study. That brings us to the data collection stage. 
While the case study is a qualitative research 
method, quantitative data can be an important 
component of the case. 

A number of methodological collection tools are 
used for data gathering purposes. Public policy case 
studies are built on documentation and different 
levels of government, national and international 

nongovernmental organizations, policy networks, 
think tanks, interest groups, university research 
centers, and political parties provide a wealth of 
information that is waiting to be mined. Making 
decisions about what to study in connection with 
the policy topic is important because it is easy to 
become overwhelmed by the amount of data that is 
available. Existing public opinion survey results 
can provide some quantitative data, even if these 
are in the form of quasi-statistics. Perhaps the most 
interesting data collection tool in public policy case 
research is interviews with key informants. The key 
informants may be leading policymakers who 
could provide valuable background information 
leading up to a policy decision. They could also be 
the public servants who have been charged with 
implementing the policy. Or they could be manag- 
ers who are trying to develop the policy while feel- 
ing the pressure coming from the top and the 
bottom of the organization. Relevant stakeholders, 
such as program recipients, may also provide valu- 
able data. Some of the initial interviews may not be 
for direct attribution purposes but rather to allow 
researchers to gather background information 
from informants, who can be quite candid if they 
do not have to go "on the record." 

Developing different perspectives from various 
sources for a public policy case study is a key to 
understanding the complexity of the policy process 
and why public policy emerges in a particular way. 
Gaining access to key informants may require con- 
siderable lead time and that is why the initial plan- 
ning aspects leading to the choice of the policy 
topic and case selection cannot be underestimated. 

Once the data have been collected, databases 
can be developed in order to sort through the 
material for analysis. Case study analysis in public 
policy typically involves using quantitative data as 
support for the qualitative data, which allows the 
researcher to drill down in order to derive meaning 
from a number of the relationships that underpin 
policy, from which public policy emerges. Once the 
analysis is complete, the case study narrative can 
be developed in concert with the data. 

Critical Summary 

Public policy case studies provide the reader with 
a detailed description of a situation that requires a 
decision or sets of decisions from policy actors. 

Case Study Research in Tourism 121 

The decision or set of decisions is then analyzed to 
identify the constraints, approaches, and tech- 
niques that are part of the policy decision-making 
process. The roles of the policy actors are also 
explored in detail. There is often, however, consid- 
erable debate over the legitimacy of theoretical 
models that have been developed on the basis of 
the cases studies. The legitimacy of public policy 
theoretical models is sometimes called into ques- 
tion because of the ideological perspectives that 
underpin case study design. Such ideological per- 
spectives are to be expected, however, because 
public policy emerges from government and poli- 
tics, and that is what makes public policy research 
so interesting to many researchers. 

Andrew Molloy 

See also Governmentality; Institutional Theory, Old and 
New; Organizational Culture; Program Evaluation and 
Case Study; Theory-Building With Cases 

Further Readings 

Allison, G. (1971). Essence of decision: Explaining the 

Cuban missile crisis. Boston: Little, Brown. 
Allison, G., & Zelikow, P. (1999). Essence of decision: 

Explaining the Cuban missile crisis (2nd ed.). New 

York: Addison Wesley Longman. 
Anderson, J. R. (1984). Public policy-making. New York: 

Holt, Rinehart & Winston. 
Etzioni, A. (1967). Mixed-scanning: A "third approach to 

decision-making." Public Administration Review, 

Lindbloom, C. E. (1959). The science of muddling 

through. Public Administration Review, 19, 79-88. 
Majchrzak, A. (1984). Methods for policy analysis 

(Applied Research Methods, Vol. 5). Beverly Hills, 

CA: Sage. 
Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: Design and 

methods (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Case Study Research 
in Tourism 

A multidisciplinary field in social sciences, tour- 
ism research, has formed a unique intellectual 
community for the practicing of case studies. Case 
study research in tourism involves empirical 

investigations of what Robert Yin called a con- 
temporary phenomenon within its real-life occur- 
rences, in which the boundaries between the 
phenomenon and its context are not clearly evi- 
dent and where multiple sources of evidence are 
required to explore, describe, or explain the real- 
life situation. The use of case studies, the develop- 
mental nature of this method, and its epistemic 
position in tourism research are reflected through 
critical appraisals of this approach in the ever- 
expanding body of tourism knowledge. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

As in other social sciences fields, case studies in 
tourism have mistakenly been regarded as a weak 
approach to the generation of social scientific 
knowledge; that tourism knowledge has been gen- 
erally characterized by case studies, area-specific 
discussions, best practice examples, and one-off or 
one-time research. Consequently, tourism research 
is perceived as stale, tired, repetitive, and lifeless. 
The trouble with its theoretical state of the art is 
attributed to the fact that its researchers keep pro- 
ducing an enormous record of case studies in 
response to the staggering expansion and variation 
of the tourism industries. Reflections on its meth- 
odological state of the art suggest that tourism 
researchers turn to alternative or innovative strate- 
gies rather than continue to produce more and 
more case studies of limited scientific value. These 
perceptions of case studies as atheoretical, area- 
specific, one-time, and not following method- 
ological procedures, which were historically 
well-entrenched in a number of social science dis- 
ciplines, are extended to the relatively new multi- 
disciplinary community of tourism research. 

Nonetheless, case studies have long been a topic 
of interest in the methodological literature. In a 
critique on the sustained interest in this method, 
Jennifer Piatt suggested that case study as a research 
strategy has grown out of the methodological tradi- 
tions of both qualitative and quantitative inquiries 
such as the grounded theory and the logic of exper- 
imental designs. Robert Stake referred to its van- 
tage as the study of the particular, which encompasses 
the nature, historical backgrounds, physical set- 
tings, as well as sociocultural contexts of a specific 
case. Jean Hartley succinctly noted that case studies 
allow for processual, contextual, and longitudinal 

122 Case Study Research in Tourism 

analyses of various actions and meanings in orga- 
nizational research. In a critical reflection of its use 
in social sciences research, Randy Stoecker stated 
that the case study approach has been wrongly 
maligned as it is the best way to refine general 
theories and apply effective interventions in com- 
plex situations. 

In terms of research design, Harry Eckstein 
categorized the variations of this approach into 
configurative-idiographic studies, disciplined-con- 
figurative studies, heuristic case studies, plausibility 
probes, and crucial-case studies. Robert Yin, on the 
other hand, used a refined typology of exploratory, 
descriptive, and explanatory case studies, to be 
developed in the maximization of construct valid- 
ity, internal and external validity, and reliability. 
Each of these typologies is seen as an effective tool 
in contexts or situations that are often too complex 
for experimental or quasi-experimental designs. In 
addition, case study is differentiated from history 
or historiography in that the latter involves special 
ways of verifying documents and artifacts in deal- 
ing with noncontemporary events when techniques 
such as participant observations, direct measure- 
ments, or interviews cannot be used as corrobora- 
tory evidence. 

With respect to implementation, data analysis, 
and theory building, methodologists have outlined 
a series of procedures that can be employed in a 
variety of contexts. These include tasks such as the 
training or skill preparation of investigators, the 
development of protocols, the conduct of pilot 
case studies, and the actual implementation of a 
case study research plan. Such steps are suggested 
in order for case study data collection, usually 
from multiple sources and by various means, to 
triangulate on the "fact" or the set of prespecified 
research questions. 

In data analysis, Yin proposed strategies such as 
relying on theoretical propositions, setting up 
frameworks based on rival explanations, and 
developing case study descriptions, for the con- 
struction of theories. In a state-of-the-art account 
of building theories from case study research, 
Eisenhardt developed a systematic process with a 
series of steps to watch for while doing analysis. 
The opportunity to explore issues in depth and in 
their contexts means that theory development can 
occur through the systematic piecing together of 
detailed evidence to generate (or perhaps replicate) 

theories of general interest. Eisenhardt summarized 
the strengths of this approach in terms of its likeli- 
hood in generating novel theories, its testability of 
emergent theories or hypotheses, and its likelihood 
of empirical validation of resultant theories. 

With the increase of interest in, and conse- 
quently an increase of literature on, case study 
methodology, stereotypical perceptions have been 
changing over the years. In light of an ascending 
incorporation of ontological and epistemic consid- 
erations in its design logic, Jacques Hamel con- 
cluded this approach embodies undoubted 
theoretical and methodological qualities. The thick 
description characteristic of case studies allows for 
a move from one epistemic form to another. In this 
sense, Hamel alluded to the case study method as 
a cornerstone of new theoretical and methodologi- 
cal strategies for sociology. As a result of its 
widespread use, methodological appraisals on its 
applications can be found in a variety of social sci- 
ences fields, including tourism research. 


Case study is a widely used strategy in tourism 
research. Honggen Xiao and Stephen Smith, in a 
content analysis of case studies published in tourism 
journals, alluded to the methodological state of the 
art of this approach in the tourism field, which can 
be summarized from a number of perspectives. 
First, in terms of thematic or topical coverage, case 
studies in tourism research are used in contexts or 
situations as diverse as planning and development, 
community perceptions of tourism impacts, alterna- 
tive forms of tourist experience, decision-/policy 
making, career development and professional train- 
ing, destination marketing and image, segmentation 
and tourist markets, cultural and heritage tourism, 
host-guest relationships, organizational operations 
and dynamics, service provisions and service indus- 
try management, and festivals and events. 

This method is also found in designs to fulfill 
case-/place-specific purposes in terms of a study's 
stated objectives or research questions, which are 
directly related to a site, organization, or locality 
under scrutiny. SiteVplace-specificities of a tourism 
case study are sometimes attributable to factors 
such as the nature of research, its funding bodies, 
and the varying degree of elaborations characterized 
by different authors or for different purposes. 

Case Study Research in Tourism 123 

Second, authorship attributes suggest that case 
studies in tourism are conducted by a multidisci- 
plinary team of researchers from a variety of 
departments/faculties such as tourism, hospitality 
or hotel management, recreation and leisure stud- 
ies, economics, business, marketing and manage- 
ment, geography and environmental studies, 
sociology and anthropology, education, informa- 
tion technology, and public administration. 
Moreover, case studies in tourism often appeared 
as coauthored or joint research, which could be a 
reflection of the extensive time or prolonged efforts 
needed for conducting such inquiries. 

Third, with respect to geographical scales, time 
points of observations (or time specificity), and the 
number of cases used in the research design, case 
studies in tourism often fall into either a small or a 
large geographical scale; for example, an attrac- 
tion site or a destination country. Tourism organi- 
zations or agencies, hotel chains, airlines, and tour 
operators are also frequently used as case study 
sites; in such instances, the coverage and diversity 
of their businesses often add to the complication 
for the implementation and data collection of a 
case study. Due to the centrality of space and place 
in tourism, case studies in this field typically tend 
to have a geographical focus. 

In terms of the time points researchers use for 
data collection, case studies in tourism are found 
to have frequently adopted one-time or cross-sec- 
tional approaches. A small number of instances 
can be regarded as longitudinal in their utilization 
of two or multiple time points for observation or 
data collection. The frequent use of one time point 
in data collection is attributable to any of a num- 
ber of reasons prevalent in the tourism research 
community, including budget constraints, report 
deadlines, or the researcher's choice of paradigms 
as in the case of an ethnographer's need for a pro- 
longed engagement with a study site versus a 
quicker, one-time survey. Although some under- 
takings adopted two/comparative or multiple-case 
designs, most case studies in tourism follow a 
single-case design. 

Fourth, in terms of data collection, triangula- 
tion through multiple sources of evidence is often 
seen in tourism case studies. Specifically, secondary 
data (e.g., archival/statistical documents, govern- 
ment reports, and news articles) and surveys were 
used most often, followed by interviews and focus 

groups. Participant or on-site observations were 
less frequently seen in tourism case studies. By vir- 
tue of the estimated length devoted to the descrip- 
tion of method and data collection, a majority of 
tourism case studies bore a limited-to-moderate 
description of methodological procedures. 

In terms of analysis and presentation, about half 
of these case studies were quantitative reports with 
statistical tables, figures, and occasionally econo- 
metric equations or formulas. About one third of 
such reports are distinctly qualitative, which is 
often characterized by thick descriptions, historical 
accounts, or ethnographic narratives, with infor- 
mation-rich texts or extensive quotes from key 
informant interviews. About one out of 10 case 
studies used a mixed approach in the report writ- 
ing. Similarly, by virtue of the length used for the 
discussions of research findings, the case study 
approach, seen from this content analysis of tour- 
ism journals, has moderate-to-high potential for 
contributing to knowledge or in generalization in 
the contexts of literature. 

Critical Summary 

Case studies have been used to address a variety of 
subjects and issues and have contributed to the 
theoretical and methodological state of the art of 
tourism research and scholarship. As noted earlier 
in this review discussion, this approach has been 
stereotypically perceived as atheoretical in tourism 
research. Such a perception or assumption has to 
do with what is meant by theory in tourism stud- 
ies. From the standpoint of classical economics, 
the term theory usually connotes a set of princi- 
ples, based on empirical evidence, that provide 
reliable, consistent, and verifiable predictions 
about the functioning of a system or phenomenon. 
In such a context, theory is not simply a model or 
a set of hypotheses, it is the formal articulation of 
cause-and-effect relationships that have been veri- 
fied repeatedly, and that reveal insights into how 
the system or phenomenon actually functions. 
From such a strictly positivist perspective, one 
might argue that the term theory is often used 
inconsistently in young multidisciplinary fields 
such as tourism, and recreation and leisure stud- 
ies, and that despite frequent debates on theoreti- 
cal advancements, there is not much theory in 
these fields. 

124 Case Study Surveys 

In contrast, in the evaluation of theoretical 
advances of tourism research from an interpretive 
perspective, theory can also be seen as a concep- 
tual framework for understanding, explaining, and 
describing social phenomena, in which a theoreti- 
cal advance is taken to mean the synthetic outcome 
of a dialectical exchange of ideas. As Edward 
Bruner noted, "social theory both reflects and is 
constitutive of changes in the world. It does not 
regard earlier work as totally discontinuous with 
the present or as fatally compromised politically, 
or as subversive of truth. It charts where we were 
and where we are going" (p. 462). It would there- 
fore be simplistic and misleading to judge a prior 
study according to whether its theoretical status is 
still as valid today as when it was initially articu- 
lated, as in the case of Dean MacCannell's The 
Tourist or John Urry's The Tourist Gaze, both of 
which are ethnographic case studies of Paris in the 
1960s and 1970s and of the United Kingdom in 
the 1980s, respectively. 

In light of the methodological process for the 
generation of theories, future assessments of tour- 
ism case studies in theory building should depend 
as much on their concepts, frameworks, and prop- 
ositions emerging from a research process, as on 
their empirical or implementational issues such as 
the strength of the method or the evidence ground- 
ing the theory. On these observations, case study 
research in tourism is as rigorous and systematic as 
other methods. 

Honggen Xiao 

See also Case Study and Theoretical Science; 
Contextualization; Descriptive Case Study 

Further Readings 

Bruner, E. (1999). Return to Sumatra: 1987, 1997. 
American Ethnologist, 26(2), 461-477. 

Eckstein, H. (1975). Case study and theory in political 
science. In F. Greenstein & N. Polsby (Eds.), Strategies 
of inquiry (pp. 79-137). Reading, MA: Addison- 

Eisenhardt, K. (1989). Building theories from case study 
research. Academy of Management Review, 14(4), 

Hamel, J. (Ed.). (1992). The case study method in 
sociology: Introduction to new theoretical and 
methodological issues. In The case study method in 
sociology [Special issue]. Current Sociology, 40, 1-7. 

Hartley, J. (1994). Case studies in organizational 

research. In C. Cassell & G. Symon (Eds.), Qualitative 

methods in organizational research: A practical guide 

(pp. 208-229). London: Sage. 
MacCannell, D. (1976). The tourist: A new theory of the 

leisure class. New York: Schocken. 
Piatt, J. (1992). "Case study" in American 

methodological thought. Current Sociology, 40, 

Stake, R. (2000). Case studies. In N. Denzin & 

Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research 

(pp. 435-454). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 
Stoecker, R. (1991). Evaluating and rethinking the case 

study. Sociological Review, 39, 88-112. 
Urry, J. (1990). The tourist gaze: Leisure and travel in 

contemporary societies. London: Sage. 
Xiao, H., & Smith, S. (2006). Case studies in tourism 

research: A state-of-the-art analysis. Tourism 

Management, 27, 738-749. 
Xiao, H., & Smith, S. (2006). The making of tourism 

research. Annals of Tourism Research, 33, 490-507. 
Xiao, H., & Smith, S. (2008). Knowledge impact: An 

appraisal of tourism scholarship. Annals of Tourism 

Research, 35, 62-83. 
Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: Design and 

methods (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Case Study Surveys 

Case study survey research is a research design in 
which a survey is administered to a case, either a 
small sample or an entire population of individuals, 
to describe an aspect or characteristic of that popu- 
lation. Researchers ask individuals in the popula- 
tion questions to examine individual self-reports 
of opinions, behaviors, abilities, beliefs, or knowl- 
edge. The responses are analyzed to describe popu- 
lation trends or to test questions or hypothesis. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

The purpose of case study survey research is to 
identify characteristics of a population by asking a 
number of questions of individuals in that popula- 
tion related to an issue. The population as a whole 
is generally not studied, although survey research 
does allow for collection of data from a larger 
number of people than is generally possible. Usually, 
a carefully selected sample is surveyed. The survey 

Case Study Surveys 125 

is used to examine individual characteristics to find 
and describe trends in the population with a focus 
on learning about the population. 

Case study survey research does not involve an 
experimental manipulation of conditions. It can- 
not be used to explain cause and effect and cannot 
be used to determine causal relationships with any 
degree of certainty. It yields a normative descrip- 
tion of how the sample has distributed itself on a 
question and the response alternatives for every 
questionnaire item. It can be used to explore a 
variety of relationships, and can also be used to 
explore relationships between two or more vari- 
ables. However, validity of the information gath- 
ered is contingent on individuals' honesty and 
willingness to participate. 


There are several types of designs that can be used 
in case study survey research. The first is a simple 
descriptive design. This is a one-time-only survey 
that is used to describe the characteristics of a 
sample case at one point in time. The second type 
is a cross-sectional survey design where the 
researcher collects information from a population 
or several populations at one point in time. The 
third survey research design is longitudinal. 
Longitudinal designs follow the same or very simi- 
lar populations over a period of time or at different 
points in time. They include trend studies that 
examine different samples from a population sur- 
veyed at different points in time, cohort studies 
where a specific population is followed over a 
period of time, and panel studies that survey the 
same individuals at each subsequent data collec- 
tion point. Unfortunately, panel studies may suffer 
from a loss of subjects over time, leaving a smaller 
sample with possible bias. 

Case study survey research design makes use of 
several tools to obtain standardized information 
from all individuals in the sample. Questionnaires 
or interview guides are the most common instru- 
ments used to collect data. The questions asked in 
the questionnaires and interviews may be either 
closed form where only certain responses are 
allowed, or open form where the subjects respond 
as they wish. The form used is determined by the 
objective of the question and the nature of the 
response desired. 

A questionnaire is a form with questions 
that the individual completes and returns to the 
researcher. The individual chooses or completes 
answers to questions and provides basic personal 
or demographic information. The questionnaire 
may be mailed or online. Questionnaires that are 
mailed tend to have lower response rates than 
other survey tools, and there is no opportunity for 
the researcher to probe or question answers. 
However, they offer the greatest anonymity to 
individuals who are responding. Online question- 
naires are considerably less expensive than mailed 
surveys, and offer the advantage of being conve- 
nient to complete and return. 

An interview survey makes use of a form on 
which the researcher records answers supplied by 
the participant. The researcher asks questions 
from an interview guide and records responses. 
Interviews involve direct interaction between the 
individual and the researcher and provide a rich 
source of information. Unfortunately, they may 
allow subjectivity and possible bias from many 
sources. The interview guide can be structured 
with a series of set questions, semistructured with 
set questions and probes that are more open ended, 
and unstructured where the researcher has a gen- 
eral plan to follow, but no set questions. Interviews 
may be conducted as one-on-one in personal inter- 
views, focus group interviews, telephone inter- 
views, or electronic interviews. 

Phone interviews may result in higher response 
rate than mail surveys. They can be more costly 
and time consuming than mail, but may be less 
expensive than face to face interviews. In telephone 
interviews, researchers have the opportunity to 
probe for additional information, but there is no 
opportunity for the researcher to observe body 
language or surroundings. The personal interview 
is the most costly approach, but offers an opportu- 
nity for the researcher to build trust with the indi- 
vidual and a setting in which the researcher can 
probe for further information and understanding. 
Computer technologies offer an alternative for 
interviewing that is less expensive and may be 
more convenient for both the researcher and the 
individual responding. The researcher can probe 
answers to questions but has no opportunity to 
observe the individual. 

No response and item nonresponse are serious 
concerns in case study survey research. When 

126 Case Study With the Elderly 

individuals participating in the research fail to com- 
plete all of the items in the survey, item nonresponse 
occurs. Individuals may not know the answer, may 
be pressed for time, may skip over questions, or 
may fail to record an answer. The number of non- 
responses varies according to the natures of the ques- 
tions asked and the mode of data collection. These 
item nonresponses result on gaps in the results. 

Nonresponse is an important issue in survey 
research that occurs when individuals in the sam- 
ple population do not respond to the survey. There 
are many reasons for not responding, including 
lack of interest, forgetfulness, and unwillingness to 
participate. Unfortunately, this can result in data 
bias and is a serious difficulty. Evaluation of the 
results should include consideration of the non- 
response rates. 

Case study research data can be found in many 
areas. The Gallup Poll may be the best-known 
survey used to sample public opinion in a popula- 
tion. The general public may also be familiar with 
market surveys researchers use to evaluate product 
satisfaction or political polls that provide data on 
public support of political figures or policies. A 
review of the literature reveals a plethora of case 
study survey research. For example: Survey research 
has been used in medicine to examine patient, 
nurse, and doctor perceptions and experiences. It 
has also been used to sample drug, alcohol, and 
nicotine use; sexual activity; exercise participation; 
eating patterns; sport activity; and a variety of 
other health behaviors. In education, surveys have 
been used in program evaluation, and to examine 
teacher, student, and parent perspectives. Survey 
research has been used to measure community 
needs as they relate to programs, courses, facilities, 
projects, or community involvement. Electronic 
surveys such as computer-assisted telephone inter- 
viewing (CATI), voice recognition (VR), and touch- 
tone data entry (TDE) questionnaires have been 
used to examine public attitudes and awareness 
around different issues and even consumer prefer- 
ences and behaviors. 

Critical Summary 

Case study survey research is a research design in 
which the researcher samples a population and 
uses questionnaires or interviews to ask questions 
related to a topic or issue to develop conclusions 

regarding trends in the population. This type of 
research design is very useful, as it provides the 
researcher with the ability to sample a large num- 
ber of people within a case quickly and economi- 
cally. It also allows the researcher to sample 
individuals not located in close proximity to the 
researcher. Information can be gathered at one 
point in time, or over a period of time. However, 
survey data are self-reported information, reflect- 
ing only what individuals think, or think they 
should report, at that particular point in time. 

Linda Chmiliar 

See also Interviews; Longitudinal Research; 
Questionnaires; Sampling 

Further Readings 

Creswell, J. W. (2008). Survey designs. In Educational 
research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating 
quantitative and qualitative research (3rd ed.). Upper 
Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Merrill Prentice Hall. 

Dillman, D. A. (2007). Mail and Internet surveys: The 
tailored design method (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. 

Fowler, F. J. (2008). Survey research methods (4th ed.). 
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Rea, L., & Parker, R. (2005). Designing and conducting 
survey research: A comprehensive guide (Jossey-Bass 
Public Administration Series). San Francisco: Wiley. 

Sue, V. (2007). Conducting online surveys. Thousand 
Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Case Study With the Elderly 

Case studies of the elderly examine, describe, and 
at least implicitly advise on the governance of the 
quality of life and the health of the elderly, who 
often are chronically ill. These case studies are 
mostly undertaken by researchers in nursing stud- 
ies and gerontology. The elderly are typically older 
than 75 years, but multiple body system affliction 
and psychosocial isolation are key differentiators. 
Several levels of care are usually required. 
Incontinency, diabetes, memory loss, depression, 
difficulties in motility, and the results of heart 
attack and/or stroke are often involved. Medical 
(hospital/nursing home) and/or community-based 
(home care) regimes of care are concerned. 

Case Study With the Elderly 127 

The case studies typically involve the elderly, 
their bodies, social contexts, sensemaking, fami- 
lies, professionals, and the insurers. To be "elderly" 
has a complex and contested intersubjective mean- 
ing. The lived-body exists in a world full of 
textures, resonances, tones, relationships, and cir- 
cumstances. Case study research chooses among a 
vast array of bodily informed possibilities of obser- 
vation, reflection, and analysis to provide insight 
into the elderly as person, small group, subcate- 
gory, and/or element of organization. The term 
elderly is politically and theoretically laden. 

Conceptual Overview and Application 

Ageism or the wholesale discrimination against the 
elderly dominates in advanced industrialized coun- 
tries. Being elderly is mostly stigmatized — it is char- 
acterized as being "past it," "giving up," and "being 
a burden." For some, old age is identified with unat- 
tractiveness, dependence, loss, and decline. For oth- 
ers, the elderly are viewed as a "problem" because 
they are "not productive" and form a "welfare bur- 
den" that gets ever larger. In response to such nega- 
tive stereotypes, some elderly persons may claim to 
be "active," "purposeful," and to make a positive 
social contribution. They may internalize and then 
deny negative stereotyping. Many elderly buy into 
the paradoxical antiaging "dream" by acting fit, 
dressing fashionably, and traveling extensively. 
Acting is used here in Erving Goffman's sense of 
performing a social position that is normatively or 
ethically laden. The "young-old" (i.e., the elderly 
with a youthful "lifestyle") or "not-old" (i.e., the 
elderly who actively oppose being seen as "old") try 
to deny aging. Their (life-) stories lead to case studies 
about "positive aging" and "proactive lifestyles." 

Some elderly embrace interdependence and reci- 
procity and fight for a more inclusive society. Case 
studies about them stress caring about others. 
Directly experienced community is their key norm. 
Their self is constructed around immediate rela- 
tionships and personal commitments. In a post- 
modern culture of rootlessness, hyperreality, and 
impermanence, the emphasis on socially commit- 
ted togetherness and the celebration of community 
and closely knit relationships is exceptional. For 
this group, neighborhood is a key value. 

Case studies of the elderly are framed in an 
opposition between naturalism and normativism. 

Naturalism accepts physical deterioration with age 
as inevitable and understands chronic illness to be 
independent of individual or social values. Disease 
is a natural phenomenon entailing diminished func- 
tional ability. The aged who are in principle chron- 
ically ill are simply "diminished" or "lessened" in 
their abilities. Their condition just is a biological 
fact. "Agedness" rests thus supposedly on a value- 
neutral core, though there are economic or political 
choices or values involved in the choices of care 
responses. From this point of view, on the one 
hand, there are the value-neutral facts of medicine 
understood as a science. And on the other hand, 
there is the value-laden world of political or eco- 
nomic choice. Proponents of naturalism argue that 
the two can and must be radically divided. 

Normativism does not accept the naturalist take 
on aging. Normativism argues that every norm 
(e.g., "healthy") is value laden and has to be exam- 
ined in its ethico-social context. "Diminished in 
abilities" makes sense only in accordance to a 
norm — which abilities are diminished, when and 
why? Are "abilities" defined in terms of physical 
labor, wisdom, or something else, and why? 
Normativism focuses on the ability to perform 
intentional actions and achieve goals, while natu- 
ralism focuses on biological factors often under- 
stood in statistical terms. 

Case studies of the elderly tend to embrace nor- 
mativism. If health, as in naturalism, amounts to 
preserving the organic functional ability to make 
species-typical contributions to survival and repro- 
duction, then health can be objectively and statisti- 
cally determined — that is, subjects' perceptions or 
awareness are not relevant. But if a normative 
evaluation of the person's body and mind is a nec- 
essary element in the care of the elderly, then case 
studies are necessary. "Being elderly" can have to 
do with pain, suffering, and disability — that is, to 
the experienced inability to act and to do or achieve 
things as one wishes and/or one expects to be able 
to do. It then includes: sensory impairment; prob- 
lematic mobility and falls; age-related changes in 
memory; depression, stress, and coping; dementia; 
long-term healthcare and its rationing. But "being 
elderly" can also focus on those who are not in 
pain, suffering, or disabled. Case studies of the 
elderly can study well-being, fitness, and the posi- 
tive manifestations of emotional and sexual expres- 
sion in later life. Expectation and intentionality are 

128 Case Study With the Elderly 

crucial. Aging and illness experiences are under- 
stood here to be normative and are studied as 

Case studies of the elderly can clarify who 
makes which (health)care decisions and how. 
Obviously the client must play a role, but also the 
client's loved ones, as well as the healthcare spe- 
cialists and various representatives of the socioeco- 
nomic powers. Care is organized along a dual 
power structure, with medical care mainly follow- 
ing the naturalist biostatistical line. Doctors tend 
to treat disease and follow evidence-based medi- 
cine. They may minimize issues about what the 
patient actually feels or experiences. Illness and 
disease, health and care, can all be considered 
socially constructed, comprising social-economic 
and cultural values. Although advocates of natu- 
ralism believe that choosing "survival" as the key 
norm for healthcare is value neutral, opponents 
disagree. For opponents, choosing survival dis- 
plays links to social Darwinism, a viewpoint mir- 
roring (neoliberal or hypercapitalist) economic 
competition and political assumptions. The critical 
structuralists point out that the "primacy of the 
self" that is assumed as of paramount value by the 
humanist concept of survival is a sociohistorical 
construct that can be criticized as so many justifi- 
cations of the social regime of private property. 

Normativism precommits case studies to human- 
ist values by taking the bodily, social, and contex- 
tual experiences of the elderly into account. The 
integrity and dignity of the elderly are normativ- 
ism's key dual values, embodying respect for 
autonomy. The negative term ageism describes 
disrespect and discrimination against the elderly. 
In terms of care, the positive value is person cen- 
tered. Dignity and integrity, in the care of the 
elderly, entail doing justice to their quality of being 
human. Concretely this includes (a) an adequate 
means of existence, (b) freedom from intense con- 
tinual pain, (c) a minimum of liberty, and (d) the 
practice of deference that honors basic self-respect. 
For the elderly, these are not self-evident matters. 

Some elderly are totally dependent, in pain, not 
permitted social choices, and exposed to care that 
negates their self-worth. Often, the efficiency of 
washing or grooming, dressing, and feeding is 
maximized and the dignity of the cared-for is 
ignored. For those whose lives have embodied 
moral maturity and high standards of action, losing 

all contact with their moral identity is enormously 
damaging. Often the cared-for are treated as if they 
have no moral will or relevant ability to judge cir- 
cumstances. The dignity of personal identity is 
endangered. Nakedness, inconstancy, and memory 
loss, for instance, form for many a continual dan- 
ger of shame and embarrassment. Respect for the 
dignity of the elderly may sound very abstract, but 
appropriate case studies have demonstrated that it 
is really quite concrete. 

Ingrid Randers and Anne-Catherine Mattiasson 
describe, for instance, the treatment of an elderly 
woman in a wheelchair. The woman feels humili- 
ated when a young caregiver tells her that she must 
go to bed at 8 p.m.; she is in a wheelchair but is 
perfectly capable of making her own choices. A 
caregiver sees her near midnight, sitting alone star- 
ing out a window, having retreated into her own 
melancholy. The caregiver questions her, reassures 
her that she is understood, that no one is angry, 
and brings her to bed, promising to check on her 
regularly during the night. 

Integrity and dignity entail respect for the (a) 
corporal, (b) psychological, (c) informational, and 
(d) cultural self. Integrity means being respected, 
being treated with dignity, and not being physically 
or psychologically harmed. Dependency increases 
the chances that integrity is violated. Case studies 
are used to examine whether the privacy of belong- 
ings, space, and body have been violated. 
Examination of the elderly's lifeworld include 
descriptions of bodily presence (embodiment), 
examination of temporalization (how one lives in 
past, present, and future), attention to mood (emo- 
tional attunement), research into spatiality (sense 
of place), and sensitivity to the quality of interper- 
sonal relations (intersubjectivity); other themes 
include: the sense of selfhood, having goals (convic- 
tions, sense of purpose), and uses of discourse 

These lifeworld criteria are used to examine the 
elderly phenomenologically. While the categories 
are rich and broad in scope, the methods of apply- 
ing them are controversial. If handled poorly, life- 
world analysis becomes mere researcher projection. 
In the data collection, the other must be heard, 
responded to, and valued. Relationship building 
requires self-awareness, reflexivity, and attention 
to values. Especially because the elderly, for what- 
ever reasons, may find it difficult to speak out for 

Case-to-Case Synthesis 129 

themselves or to assert their own perspective(s), 
case studies are often the most person-centered 
research possible. 

Normativists stress the need to feel connected 
and close to others. In the 1960s the elderly were 
prized, for instance, by Bertrand Russell in New 
Hopes for a Changing World and Erik Erikson in 
Childhood and Society, for displaying stoic wisdom 
and distance from the hypes of daily concerns. 
Today an active concern with life in the face of death 
is often seen to be characteristic of integrity, while 
postmodern frantic consumerism and depression, as 
described by Jean Baudrillard, are thought to be all 
too common. Integrity is thought to have to do with 
life as something necessary, whole, and meaningful. 
The person-centered focus emphasizes Gemeinschaft, 
the shared quality of life, and communitarian well- 
being. The valuing of interdependence, recognition, 
respect, and trust are highlighted. 

Critical Summary 

Case study research of the elderly is profoundly 
normative. Responsibility for "care for the self" 
during the last few years of life is at issue. The 
processes of letting die and/or making live are at 
stake. Governments in Europe and the United 
States started in the 1970s to abandon the elderly, 
claiming that responsibility for the elderly was too 
expensive for the collectivity. Thus the elderly have 
been redefined as individuals, responsible for their 
own autonomy and (self-)care. Morbidity, mortal- 
ity, vitality, and longevity have been privatized and 
individualized. Institutional (hospital or nursing 
home) care has been replaced as much as possible 
by care at home. Doctors and other highly trained 
professionals have largely been replaced by less- 
trained nurses or by volunteers. 

The care regime considered desirable, legiti- 
mate, and/or efficacious varies enormously depend- 
ing upon one's "politics of life itself." Case studies 
of the elderly originate with the interventionists 
who in the name of life and health, humanism, and 
social justice, believe that an active biopolitics is 
justified and desirable, and who are committed to 
defending the quality of life of the elderly. 

Hugo Letiche 

See also Ethics; Phenomenology; Poststructuralism; 

Further Readings 

Baudrillard, J. (1998). The consumer society. London: 

Butler, R. N. (1969). Ageism, another form of bigotry. 

The Gerontologist, 9, 243-246. 
Erikson, E. (1963). Childhood and society. New York: W. 

W. Norton. 
Featherstone, M., & Hepworth, M. (1986). New 

lifestyles in old age? In C. Phillipson, M. Bernard, & 

P. Strang (Eds.), Dependency and inter dependency in 

old age: Theoretical perspectives and policy 

alternatives (pp. 85-94). London: Croom Helm. 
Featherstone, M., & Hepworth, J. (1989). Ageing and 

old age: Reflections on the postmodern lifecourse. In 

B. Bytheway, T. Keil, P. Allatt, & A. Bryman (Eds.), 

Becoming and being old: Sociological approaches to 

later life (pp. 143-157). London: Sage. 
Gergen, K., & Gergen, M. (2009). Positive aging. 

Retrieved May 11, 2009, from http://www 
Gibson, H. B. (1992). The emotional and sexual lives of 

older people. London: Nelson Thornes. 
Goffman, E. (1968). Stigma. London: Penguin. 
Gubrium, J. F., & Silverman, D. (Eds.). (1989). The 

politics of field research. London: Sage. 
Hepworth, M. (2000). Stories of ageing. Buckingham, 

UK: Open University Press. 
Randers, I., & Mattiasson, A.-C. (2004). Autonomy and 

integrity. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 45, 66. 
Rose, N. (2006). The politics of life itself. Princeton, 

NJ: Princeton University Press. 
Russell, B. (1951). New hopes for a changing world. 

New York: Simon & Schuster. 
Tinker, A. (1992). Elderly people in modern society. 

London: Longman. 
Todres, L. (2007). Embodied enquiry. London: Palgrave 

Tonnies, F. (2002). Community and society. New York: 

Traynor, M., & Rafferty, A. M. (Eds.). (2001). 

Exemplary research for nursing and midwifery. 

London: Routledge. 

Case-to-Case Synthesis 

Case-to-case synthesis is one of several secondary 
analysis techniques that can improve the influence 
and usefulness of both qualitative and quantitative 
case study research results. Such syntheses also 

130 Case-to-Case Synthesis 

hold promise for addressing policy issues at the 
national level as they build understanding across 
several instances within a problem space, thus 
generating knowledge with broader applicability. 

Other secondary analysis techniques appropriate 
for case studies are research reviews, secondary 
re-analyses, and metasyntheses. Research reviews 
are critical summaries and interpretations of the 
available research literature on a specific topic. As 
such, they are similar to literature reviews that focus 
on the theoretical framing of the study, the design, 
methods, analysis techniques, and/or findings of 
several studies. Secondary re-analyses are conducted 
when researchers have access to original data pro- 
duced with a similar research focus, agenda, and 
data collection methods across unique settings, 
informants, or contexts. Secondary analyses, or re- 
analyses, of data using an improved lens or interpre- 
tive framework can generate new insights and 
contribute to knowledge in the problem space. 
Metasyntheses focus on theory building using the 
assumptions and techniques of grounded theory 
methodology through which the data, methods, 
findings, and theoretical frameworks of independent 
studies are examined with the goal of generating a 
synthesis of results across the collection of studies. 

The focus of this entry, case-to-case synthesis, 
involves the in-depth examination of a collection 
of case studies — albeit ones with a common focus, 
method, or outcomes. The cases could be instances 
in a multi-site case study or could be case studies 
conducted independently. Multi-site case studies 
are typically designed to be intentionally inte- 
grated, whereas independently conducted studies 
are not. In the latter instance, the synthesis is 
intended to build integrative understanding of the 
problem space studied in the independent case 
studies. Researchers can explore several instances 
of a common or similar phenomenon, event, or 
population and can consider the combined cases as 
the collective case. 

Because synthesis is fundamentally interpretive, 
different researchers may well focus on different 
aspects of the cases, reflect on and integrate those 
accounts into their own experiences, and render 
different syntheses. This is similar to what we 
would expect from two different integrative 
research reviews of the same corpus of studies. 
Because researchers bring different conceptual 
lenses to the task, two reviews of the same body of 

research would likely be organized differently, 
emphasize different elements of the studies, and 
draw different conclusions. In fact, this value- 
added interpretation is what makes intriguing 
research reviews — and syntheses of case studies — 
interesting and scholarly. It raises the resultant 
work above the mere recitation of previous stud- 
ies — impoverished, annotated bibliographies — so 
soundly critiqued. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Case studies vary in design and can involve gather- 
ing qualitative and quantitative information from 
a single intact group or one- and two-group pre- 
test-posttest designs. The strength of case studies 
lies in their in-depth explorations of bounded sys- 
tems over time that respect situated factors and 
position the target constructs in authentic con- 
texts. This very strength, however, can limit appli- 
cation of the results. End users may judge the 
bounded system as too idiosyncratic for their 
problems, situations, andconstituents. Nevertheless, 
synthesizing across cases holds promise for build- 
ing knowledge that is more generally useful and 
can inform policy, programs, and practice. 

For example, case studies have a rich history in 
law and medicine and growing application in 
healthcare, the social sciences, and education. 
Reviews of individual court cases and judicial deci- 
sions have served as the basis for procedures and 
standards regarding legal issues — case law — while 
individual case results in medicine have been inte- 
grated to standardize treatments and to generate 
hypotheses about specific diseases and illnesses. 
Similar trends can be found in healthcare and 
social welfare but are not as apparent in education. 
This concern and the lack of education research's 
impact on policymakers and decision makers has 
become an important issue in the education 
research community. 

In multi-site case studies, researchers deliber- 
ately design a study to describe and analyze the 
phenomenon of interest in several instances. This 
intentionality drives the research design by utilizing 
common questions, procedures, data sources, prop- 
ositions, and analyses across several bounded sys- 
tems. The analysis, in turn, leads to assertions that 
apply to each individual case and to the collective 
case that more fully represent the entire problem 

Case-to-Case Synthesis 131 

space. The use of such anchors as similar problems, 
questions, data collection, and interpretive frames 
produces results that facilitate generalizability to 
other, slightly different, bounded systems. 

A similar approach can be applied to a research 
agenda that involves serial studies of a problem 
space over time. Each case study may be con- 
ducted independently and sequentially, but they 
all address a common problem with similar 
research questions, designs, data collection, and 
data interpretation — even though implemented in 
different settings with somewhat different content 
or participants, or both. In this approach, data 
from several case studies can be re-analyzed as a 
collective dataset or the results can be synthesized 
across the mosaic of the case studies. 

The literature describes two central analytic 
strategies for case-to-case comparisons leading to 
synthesis — case-oriented and variable-oriented 
approaches — as well as a mixed approach. In the 
case-oriented approach, one case is analyzed and a 
grounded theory or working explanation is devel- 
oped. This working explanation is then applied to 
subsequent cases to test the robustness of the 
explanation. In the variable-oriented approach, 
particular themes are identified and compared 
across cases. The complexity of specific cases is 
downplayed to highlight the thematic analysis. 
While this may be a disadvantage, it can be over- 
come by relying on mixed approaches where some 
balance is struck between the full comparative 
analysis of cases and the discrete, more focused 
analysis of variables or themes. 

It is important to note that findings from stud- 
ies, even those involving randomly selected 
samples, are not strictly generalizable to other 
populations. While this logical error is frequently 
made in research reports, the logic and assump- 
tions of random sampling and statistical inference 
do not permit the seamless application, or general- 
ization, of results from the original study to a new, 
presumably different population. However, the use 
of analogy and compare-contrast reasoning allows 
potential users of research results to determine for 
themselves if a study's results will be useful to their 
specific problem, situation, and constituents. This 
is a more inclusive, stipulative definition of gener- 
alizing — one that encourages and values syntheses 
across studies but relies on a different logic than 
that of probabilities. 

Synthesis — the process of integrating parts to 
form a whole — suggests that the outcome is more 
complex than a mere aggregation of component 
parts. The process is more closely related to infer- 
ring and drawing conclusions than to probabilistic 
generalizing. However, where generalizing state- 
ments integrate salient elements, conditions, and 
explanations, applications to other instances are 
presumed. Such applicability is one criterion for 
judging the value of the synthesis. The logical pro- 
cesses of syntheses are inductive, analogical, and 


A few examples of multiple case studies and case- 
to-case synthesis can be found in the intersection 
of literacy and science education research focusing 
on science literacy for all. The brief summaries of 
these examples illustrate the procedures outlined 
above and their application to short-term studies 
and a long-term research program. 

Teacher's Beliefs 

An example of a case-to-case synthesis comes 
from the work of Deborah Dillon, David O'Brien, 
Elizabeth Moje, and Roger Stewart, who found 
that previous research on language, literacy, and 
science education had considered several elements: 
classroom questioning techniques, verbal interac- 
tions, quality of texts, readers, and reading-to- 
learn science. They further established, however, 
that research had not addressed aspects of the 
problem space dealing with the interaction of 
teachers' beliefs about teaching, their understand- 
ing of science content, and their uses of literacy 
events in secondary science classrooms; also, previ- 
ous research had not sufficiently addressed how 
teachers selected, structured, and implemented lit- 
eracy events. Based on their assessment of the 
problem space and its development, these research- 
ers decided to use the methodologies of symbolic 
interactionism and ethnography to explore three 
cases of secondary science teachers' beliefs, instruc- 
tional decisions, and implementation of literacy 
events. Their design was intended to produce find- 
ings that could be applicable across more than a 
single setting; they designed a stepwise, case-to- 
case analysis. 

132 Case-to-Case Synthesis 

They conducted yearlong case studies of three 
teachers teaching students in their science class- 
rooms. Common data sources (field notes, video- 
taped and audiotaped lessons, interviews, student 
work samples, study guides, laboratory sheets, les- 
son plans) focused on each teacher's teaching phi- 
losophy and knowledge of science content, how 
these influenced the selection of literacy events, 
and how these events were organized and deliv- 
ered. The data were analyzed stepwise as the 
inquiry progressed using constant comparison; 
emerging patterns and categories were supported, 
negated, elaborated, or refined as additional infor- 
mation was collected and interpreted. 

Results for each case study were developed, and 
common trends across the three cases were synthe- 
sized and reported. The researchers looked for 
similar and different patterns across the data 
analyses and specifically focused on teaching phi- 
losophies and literacy practices. Their synthesis 
suggested that these teachers attempted to support 
student learning based on distinctly different phi- 
losophies about science teaching, instructional 
organization, and definition of science literacy. 


As another useful example, Marilyn Florence 
and Larry Yore conducted a multiple case study 
that examined the coauthorship process in two 
research laboratories. The study focused on two 
cases comprising five writing teams, one in 
Biochemistry and Microbiology and four in Climate 
Sciences. The role of the research supervisor, the 
role of the student (graduate and postgraduate), 
the interactions of the supervisor and the student, 
the activities and processes inherent in the coau- 
thorship process, and the students' expertise, sci- 
entific writing, and entry into an academic discourse 
community were documented. 

Multiple sources of data and multiple methods 
were used to document the coauthoring of research 
reports, the alignment between the students' and 
their supervisors' beliefs about writing, and whether 
coauthorship helped students become expert sci- 
ence writers. Data from cases were interpreted 
progressively starting with the Biochemistry- 
Microbiology case because other researchers had 
studied similar cases in this science area. Assertions 
derived from this case established expectations but 

did not limit them in later analyses of the Climate 
Sciences cases. 

The syntheses across the cases led the research- 
ers to conclude that several activities and pro- 
cesses were found to be common across the 
teams: planning, drafting, and revising. Habits of 
mind, beliefs about the nature of science, and 
abilities to communicate the "big ideas" of sci- 
ence were evident. Elements of scientific and writ- 
ing expertise, facets of enculturation into scientific 
research and discourse communities, academic 
civility, and the dynamics of collaborative groups 
also were apparent. There was healthy tension 
and mutual respect in the research groups as they 
attempted to make sense of science, report their 
results clearly and persuasively, and share the 
responsibilities of expertise. The novice scientists 
came to appreciate that the writing-editing- 
revising process influenced the quality of the sci- 
ence as well as the writing. 

Science Writing Heuristic 

As a third example, two research teams — Mark 
McDermott and Brian Hand as one team, and 
Murat Gunel, Brian Hand, and Vaughan Prain as 
the other — set out to synthesize the results of six 
case studies of the Science Writing Heuristic 
(SWH). The SWH is a pedagogical approach that 
uses writing to promote student learning in sci- 
ence. The Hand-Prain research group has been 
involved in the language-science learning research 
agenda for nearly 20 years; their research for the 
past decade has focused on SWH and its applica- 
tion in different instructional settings and in differ- 
ent science content areas. Their cross-case synthesis 
strategy was a secondary re-analysis of the original 
qualitative and quantitative data. 

The re-analysis of the quantitative data by the 
second team used original test items and responses 
from different pretests and posttests across the 6 
two-group case studies and followed a 3-step pro- 
cess. First, test items were reviewed and consis- 
tently classified as extended recall (retrieval of 
knowledge), analogy (cognitive, source, and target 
domains), and design (defining problem, transfer 
of knowledge, problem solution) questions; per- 
centage correct scores were calculated for these 
question types and the total pretests and posttests 
for treatment and comparison groups. Second, 

Case-to-Case Synthesis 133 

independent one-way analysis of variance 
(ANOVA) was conducted for each study on the 
treatment and comparison groups' total pretest- 
posttest differences. Third, independent two-way 
(2x3) analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) was 
conducted on treatment and comparison groups' 
posttest performance on the question types using 
pretest performance as the covariant. 

These re-analyses revealed trivial to large (0 to 
1.0) positive effect sizes for all studies. They con- 
cluded from the collective case that: 

• Using writing-to-learn strategies was 
advantageous for students compared to those 
students using the more traditional science 
writing approaches 

• Using diversified types of writing enabled 
students in treatment group to score significantly 
better on conceptual questions and total test 
than those in the comparison situations 

• Importantly, when the cognitive demand of the 
question is increased from an extended recall to 
a design question, there are significant 
performance differences between comparison 
and treatment groups in favor of treatment 

The authors argue that the use of writing-to-learn 
strategies requires students to rerepresent their 
knowledge in different forms, which fosters 
enhanced learning opportunities, and that tradi- 
tional writing strategies tend to favor replication 
of knowledge. 

Complementing this quantitative re-analysis, 
Mark McDermott and Brian Hand conducted a 
qualitative re-analysis of these case studies with 
the purpose of documenting the cognitive advan- 
tages and affective responses of writing-to-learn 
science approaches; they utilized a consistent inter- 
pretative framework and updated theoretical foun- 
dation across the collection of six studies. Identical 
and similar questions in the protocols were clus- 
tered under common intentions; student responses 
were open coded for each study individually to 
reveal potential themes within these intentions. 
Students' spontaneous comments related to learn- 
ing and affective dispositions were also noted. 

A master spreadsheet of key ideas from each 
study was developed for the collective case, and 
axial coding was applied to identify subthemes, per- 
centages of respondents, and illustrative responses 

within the themes. Finally, selective coding was 
applied to create tentative assertions pertaining to 
each theme. The research group discussed these 
tentative assertions to develop overall assertions 
for the collective case. Specific responses clarifying 
a student's rationale for agreement or disagree- 
ment with each theme were selected and used to 
justify the cross-case assertions. They asserted that 
students believed: 

• Writing-to-learn activities helped them learn. 
Students noted several characteristics that 
indicated increased cognitive involvement and 
promoted enhanced clarity. 

• Writing to an audience other than the teacher 
was beneficial. This caused them to translate 
their ideas into different terminology and to 
create text appropriate for the audience. 

• The process of drafting helped them construct 
knowledge. They could identify changes in 
their own understanding corresponding to 
changes in text. 

• The writing tasks were unique and focused on 
science understanding, not creative writing. 

• Several specific characteristics could be identified 
to promote learning benefits, but mechanical 
writing did not guarantee improved 

The researchers concluded that these re-analyses 
provided consistent results about cognitive advan- 
tages and affective responses across the six quanti- 
tative and qualitative case studies and a more 
compelling, comprehensive description for the 
effectiveness of writing-to-learn science. 

Critical Summary 

Quality research is not simply the application of a 
one-size-fits-all approach, as might be assumed by 
the gold standard in the United States. Nor is qual- 
ity research a simplistic question of qualitative or 
quantitative approaches. Rather, quality research 
involves alignment of the problem space, develop- 
ment of the related knowledge base, available 
technologies, and the design. Furthermore, quality 
research involves consideration of progress in the 
research agenda and the desire to extend knowl- 
edge about important problem spaces, which pro- 
duces trustworthy results and compelling arguments 


Case Within a Case 

reflecting prior inquiries and applicability to simi- 
lar problem spaces and settings. 

The explication of case-to-case synthesis strate- 
gies and the examples above describe processes for 
building generalizing knowledge across case stud- 
ies. In the current research climate where random- 
ized controlled trials are considered the gold 
standard for research in education, such explica- 
tions and examples offer valuable alternatives for 
generating knowledge that can inform policy, the 
education of teaching professionals, and program- 
matic initiatives. Case-to-case synthesis — whether 
conducted within an intentionally designed, multi- 
site case study or through the identification of a 
collective of independently conducted case 
studies — provides researchers with rigorous, insight- 
ful, generalizing knowledge about a problem space. 

Larry D. Yore and Gretchen B. Rossman 

See also Analytic Generalization; Coding: Axial Coding; 
Coding: Open Coding; Explanatory Case Study; 
Generalizability; Genericization; Multiple-Case 
Designs; Multi-Site Case Study; Naturalistic 

Further Readings 

Dillon, D. R., O'Brien, D. G., Moje, E. B., & Stewart, R. 
A. (1994). Literacy learning in secondary school 
science classrooms: A cross-case analysis of three 
qualitative studies. Journal of Research in Science 
Teaching, 31(4), 345-362. 

Florence, M. K., & Yore, L. D. (2004). Learning to write 
like a scientist: Coauthoring as an enculturation task. 
Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 41(6), 637-668. 

Gunel, M., Hand, B., & Prain, V. (2007). Writing for 
learning in science: A secondary analysis of six studies. 
International Journal of Science and Mathematics 
Education, 5(4), 615-637. 

McDermott, M. A., & Hand, B. (2008, January). A 
secondary analysis of writing-to-learn studies in 
science: Focus on the student voice. Paper presented at 
the international meeting of the Association for 
Science Teaching Education. St. Louis, MO. 

Rossman, G. B., & Yore, L. D. (in press). Stitching the 
pieces together to reveal the generalized patterns: 
Systematic research reviews, secondary reanalyses, 
case-to-case comparisons, and metasyntheses of 
qualitative research studies. In M. C. Shelley, L. D. 
Yore II, & B. Hand (Eds.), Quality research in literacy 

and science education: International perspectives and 
gold standards. Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Springer. 

Shelley, M. C, Yore, L. D., II, & Hand, B. (Eds.), 
(in press). Quality research in literacy and science 
education: International perspectives and gold 
standards. Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Springer. 

Stake, R. E. (1995). The art of case study research. 
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: Design and 
methods (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Yore, L. D., II. (2003). Quality science and mathematics 
education research: Considerations of argument, 
evidence, and generalizability [Guest editorial]. School 
Science and Mathematics, 103, 1-7. 

Yore, L. D., II, & Lerman, S. (2008). Metasyntheses of 
qualitative research studies in mathematics and science 
education [Editorial]. International Journal of Science 
and Mathematics Education, 6(2), 217-223. 

Case Within a Case 

Case within a case is a specific research strategy 
that can be used when employing the case study 
methodology. This research design involves divid- 
ing a larger phenomenon of interest (the case) into 
a subset of smaller meaningful units (subcases). 
These subcases can then be used to compare both 
similarities and differences within and across the 
subcases in order to glean insight into the larger 
phenomenon of interest. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

The case study is a method for doing research that 
involves gaining an in-depth, longitudinal under- 
standing of a single phenomenon of interest within 
its natural context as it occurs over time. This 
research strategy is excellent for providing realism 
but is often criticized for its lack of control. Indeed, 
control is rarely something that those who use the 
case method strive to attain because they usually 
follow a constructivist philosophy and tend to 
view activities as being interrelated and interacting 
but not necessarily causally deterministic. 

Thus in case research the purpose is to describe 
a sequence of interrelated, contextually bound 
activities rather than a few well-isolated causal vari- 
ables. However, while asserting causality for a few 
independent variables is not the goal, researchers do 

Case Within a Case 


still seek the ability to abstract away from the 
details of the specific phenomenon to provide gen- 
eralizable theoretical statements. This is where 
identifying multiple subcases within an overarching 
case becomes a useful tool. 

Dividing a single case into a subset of smaller 
cases provides the opportunity to identify both 
similarities and differences across the subcases. 
What is gained from this form of analysis often 
serves as the foundation for the theoretical gener- 
alizations that are difficult to ascertain when 
examining only a single case. For example, when 
researchers are looking for similarities across cases 
they will often use the subcases as independent 
"natural experiments" in order to confirm or dis- 
confirm emerging conceptual insights. In addition 
to identifying similarities across cases, researchers 
can also examine differences. Differences between 
cases are used to help the researcher identify "what 
did not happen" and can help to dispel "natural- 
izing myths." Thus, rather than attempting to 
determine causal relationships across a few iso- 
lated variables, as is done in traditional variance- 
based approaches, differences between cases 
provide new ways of seeing and understanding 
how a given phenomenon may unfold in each of 
the subcases. Accordingly, dividing a single case 
into several meaningful subunits provides the 
structure that helps in making the elusive concep- 
tual leap that is necessary to create theoretical 

In starting a case-within-a-case study, it is first 
necessary to identify a bounded system. That is, as 
in a regular case study, researchers should start by 
identifying a phenomenon of interest and the 
boundaries that will delimit what will, and will 
not, be studied. When the boundaries have been 
defined, the next step is to identify the subcases for 
comparison. It is usual that between 4 and 10 sub- 
cases will be selected, a number small enough to 
allow in-depth study and understanding, but large 
enough to allow for meaningful comparison. The 
subcases, as the case itself, should be purposively 
selected on the basis of satisfying some pertinent 
theoretical criteria. 

If studying strategy implementation, for example, 
it may be useful to examine how the strategy is 
implemented by different organizational subunits, 
such as teams, functional departments, geographi- 
cal sites, or operating companies. Thus, the subcases 

would be formed through examining how the strat- 
egy (the case) is interpreted and enacted in each 
different bounded system (the cases within the case). 
While a strong theoretical rationale for case and 
subcase selection is important, another key logisti- 
cal consideration when choosing cases is accessibil- 
ity. The theoretical utility of the case is irrelevant if 
access cannot be gained to the research site. Thus, 
cultivating a relationship with an internal sponsor is 
a key component of case study research. 

Once the case and subcases have been selected, 
the next step is to begin collecting data. This step 
again is similar to a single case study in that data 
can be collected from multiple sources using mul- 
tiple methods. Different forms of data that are 
often used include interviews, observations, his- 
torical archives, surveys, official documents, and 
popular press articles. However, it is important to 
note that when collecting data, the case is the pri- 
mary referent for choosing which methods and 
sources to use. In other words, the methods and 
sources should be chosen based on their ability to 
provide insights into the phenomenon of interest. 

Therefore it is useful to create a case plan ahead 
of time in which initial decisions regarding types 
and sources of data have been made. However, it 
is also important to remain flexible to allow the 
pursuit of new data sources and questions as con- 
textual understanding increases. A key difference 
between a single case study and a case-within-a- 
case study is that it is not uncommon to have mul- 
tiple researchers collecting data in studies with 
multiple cases where the work is divided on a per 
case basis. Having a case plan in this instance is 
even more important because it helps ensure that 
similar sources and methods have been used to col- 
lect the data across the subcases, which can in turn 
help demonstrate the robustness of cross-case 

The case analyses and write-up typically start 
with an in-case analysis of each of the subcases to 
ensure that a good understanding of each subcase 
has been acquired. At this point, interesting empir- 
ical and theoretical themes will start to emerge. 
After the in-case analysis is done, the next step is 
to look across cases for similarities and differences 
among cases. While these steps do appear linear, 
overall the case analysis should be pursued in an 
iterative fashion where there is a constant com- 
parison between the overall case and the individual 


Case Within a Case 

subcases. As findings begin to emerge from cases, 
it is important to remember that while researchers 
want to stay close to the data, the final report 
should involve taking a creative conceptual leap to 
make theoretical generalizations that could be of 
interest to a broader population. 


An exemplar of the case-within-case approach can 
be seen in Ewan Ferlie, Louise Fitzgerald, Martin 
Wood, and Chris Hawkins's study of the non- 
spread of innovation. The case was organized with 
the purpose of understanding more about the dif- 
fusion of evidence-based innovations in healthcare 
organizations. The overall case, the National 
Health Service (NHS), was divided into eight sub- 
cases. Each subcase consisted of a single innova- 
tion that subsequently was followed throughout 
the diffusion process. 

The subcases were purposively selected based 
on two criteria identified as relevant to under- 
standing the overarching case. First, the team 
wished to examine the potential influences of dif- 
fering healthcare contexts on innovation, so sub- 
cases were drawn equally from acute and primary 
care settings. The second criterion was based on 
whether the innovations were supported by strong 
or contestable scientific evidence, because the 
researchers theorized that this would be a central 
factor that influenced the spread of the innova- 
tion. When the researchers had selected the cases, 
they established a plan for data collection, a pro- 
cess that took place over a 3 -year period. Data 
were collected from a variety of sources, including 
semistructured interviews, minutes of meetings, 
policy guidelines, and published and nonpublished 

Data analyses followed an iterative process in 
which, first, single subcase studies with common 
formats were produced. These then formed the 
bases for a thematic analysis that was conducted 
across the subcases. Given the large amounts of 
very rich data that are produced in such studies, 
it is quite usual for researchers to publish differ- 
ent parts of the case/subcases in different journal 
articles, and even to provide book-length 
accounts. Irrespective of how these accounts are 
disseminated, a vital step is to proffer theoretical 

The Ferlie team suggested that while strength of 
the accumulated scientific evidence influences 
which innovations spread, the spread of evidence 
is mediated by the social and cognitive boundaries 
between the professional groups that are respon- 
sible for enacting the different innovations. These 
"boundaries" between professional groups (e.g., 
doctors, nurses, hospital consultants, advocacy 
groups) have the potential for retarding the spread 
of the innovation. It is then argued that though this 
study took place in the medical field, these findings 
can be applied to other large, complex multipro- 
fessional organizations such as consulting firms, 
pharmaceuticals firms, and major software houses. 
It is precisely this type of theoretical generalization 
emanating from subcase comparison that makes 
this method so compelling. 

Critical Summary 

While dividing a single case into multiple subcases 
is useful for generating theoretical insights, it is 
important to remember that a primary benefit of 
case studies is that they allow in-depth study of 
complex phenomena. Thus, researchers should be 
cognizant of the trade-offs inherent in creating sub- 
cases. As the number of subcases increases, the 
amount of information that can be gathered and 
used for each case decreases. Hence there is a con- 
stant need for researchers to balance the tensions 
between examining the overarching case and the 

Maria Gondo, John Amis, James Vardaman 

See also Comparative Case Study; Cross-Case Synthesis 
and Analysis; Multi-Site Case Study; Theory-Building 
With Cases 

Further Readings 

Ferlie, E., Fitzgerald, L., Wood, M., & Hawkins, C. 

(2005). The nonspread of innovations: The mediating 

role of professionals. Academy of Management 

Journal, 48, 117-134. 
Pettigrew, A., Ferlie, E., & McKee, L. (1992). Shaping 

strategic change: Making change in large 

organizations: The case of the National Health 

Service. London: Sage. 
Stake, R. (2005). Multiple case study analysis. New York: 


Causal Case Study: Explanatory Theories 137 

Causal Case Study: 
Explanatory Theories 

The essence of explanatory theories is to answer 
"why" questions. To do so, causal linkages 
between events must be identified; this is what 
causal case studies do. They tell a story of a 
sequence of events or processes and thus lend 
themselves to building explanatory theories that 
generalize from the story. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Scientific explanations involve making causal state- 
ments, such as "a lightning strike ignited the fire," 
or "bacteria caused the infection." In social sci- 
ences, explanations involve volitional actors — 
human beings — and therefore simple mechanical 
causality as in the above examples does not apply. 
To explain, for example, why the crime rate in 
certain neighborhoods has increased, or why a 
particular business firm has managed to outper- 
form its competition, a whole network of causally 
connected factors needs to be identified. By focus- 
ing on telling a story — a temporal sequence of 
events in their context — case studies can accom- 
plish this better than most other research methods 
(which are based on analyzing variances and can- 
not uncover causal direction). 

Exploratory and descriptive case studies tell a 
story (what happened and how), but they do not 
pinpoint causality (why it happened) beyond iden- 
tifying the chronology of events. For example, an 
exploratory case study may reveal that a patient 
had a parent with heart disease, was sedentary and 
consumed a high-fat diet, then had a heart attack. 
A descriptive case study might tell a story about a 
business firm with declining sales and profits, 
unmotivated employees, and lagging investment in 
research and development. While exploratory and 
descriptive case studies are important, they do not 
provide explanations or causal connections. Causal 
case studies do that, through extended research 
design and data analysis. 

Causal case studies start with description. No 
explanation can be reached before the phenomenon 
of interest, whether a particular heart attack or 
superior business performance, is described; that is, 
we have a descriptive understanding of how the 

phenomenon manifests itself and what sequence of 
events has preceded it. But a temporal sequence of 
events is not a sufficient indication of cause-effect 
relationships; to uncover those, the case study 
researcher must take the analysis further. This 
entails looking for patterns, or themes, in the data. 
For example, maybe in neighborhoods with increas- 
ing crime rates, families with stable incomes have 
started moving elsewhere in search of more spacious 
accommodations, followed by local businesses. Or 
maybe businesses that outperform their competition 
have uniquely differentiated their products. 


Describing the case story and identifying and ana- 
lyzing patterns within or across cases and iteratively 
comparing them with the data will allow research- 
ers to uncover the causal networks at play in the 
focal case(s). They will be able to explain that busi- 
nesses with superior performance are in tune with 
the needs of different customer groups, have chosen 
to serve one or a few of them, and then acquired the 
necessary resources and aligned all their activities 
to serve their customers exceptionally well, at a 
price customers are willing to pay. Customers 
reward them with profits, and they attract more 
customers with similar needs. Competitors are 
unable to copy what these superior performers are 
doing. This kind of causal explanation of a particu- 
lar case is not yet an explanatory theory. 

To move from causal case studies to an explana- 
tory theory, one final step is required: Researchers 
must generalize from their particular causal expla- 
nations of single or multiple cases. This is an inte- 
grative and interpretive step, as researchers must 
bring the total of their and analysis to bear in order 
to distill the essential causal connections at play. For 
example, such generalization may yield the resource- 
based theory of the firm, or the value activity model 
developed by Michael Porter — both of them explain 
superior performance of business firms. 

Explanatory theories can arise from a single case 
study, such as Graham Allison's study of the Cuban 
missile crisis, which yielded three plausible theories 
of organizational decision making. While a single 
case can give rise to an explanatory theory, multiple 
cases — analogous to replicated experiments — give 
us more confidence in the emerging theory, validat- 
ing it both internally and externally. 



An example of causal case study based on mul- 
tiple cases is Ann Langley and Jean Truax's inves- 
tigation of new technology adoption in small 
manufacturing firms. They conducted longitudinal 
case studies of five smaller manufacturing firms 
with two data collection phases one year apart, 
using participant interviews and available docu- 
ments. Detailed descriptive chronologies for each 
firm's technology adoption process were developed 
and summarized in visual flowcharts that captured 
the complex causal relationships between choices 
made and various facilitating and inhibiting con- 
textual elements (e.g., financing becoming avail- 
able, or a strike). Comparisons of the causal 
sequences in the flowcharts and other visual dis- 
plays allowed the authors to identify cross-case 
patterns of a technology adoption process that led 
to an explanatory model, consisting of three sub- 
processes: strategic commitment, technology 
choice, and financial justification. 

Critical Summary 

By telling a rich, contextual story — what happened 
and how — case studies naturally lend themselves 
to discovering connections between causes and 
effects, that is, to answering "why" questions, the 
basis of explanatory theories. Researchers con- 
ducting case studies can stop at describing "what 
and how" and explaining "why," but in order to 
induce an explanatory theory from their work, 
they have to make the integrative and interpretive 
step to uncover the general causal mechanism 
beyond their particular cases. 

Jaana Woiceshyn 

See also Case Study and Theoretical Science; Explanatory 
Case Study; Inductivism; Theory-Building With Cases 

Further Readings 

Allison, G. T. (1971). Essence of decision making: 

Explaining the Cuban missile crisis. Boston: Little, 

Eisenhardt, K. M. (2007). Theory building from cases: 

Opportunities and challenges. Academy of 

Management Journal, 50, 25-32. 
Langley, A., & Truax, J. (1994). A process study of new 

technology adoption in smaller manufacturing firms. 

journal of Management Studies, 31(5), 619-652. 

Pentland, B. T. (1999). Building process theory with 
narrative: From description to explanation. Academy 
of Management Review, 24(A), 711-724. 

Porter, M. E. (1996, November-December). What is 
strategy? Harvard Business Review, pp. 61-78. 

Weick, K. E. (1989). Theory construction as disciplined 
imagination. Academy of Management Review, 14(4), 


Within the realm of narrative analysis, the notion 
of character can be understood in two ways. The 
first is the understanding of who the social actors 
are and their importance to the narrative. The 
second use of character is a way to describe the 
overall theme or tone of the narrative. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

There is more than one way to do narrative analy- 
sis. As Catherine Kohler Riessman points out, nar- 
rative analysis can have different foci. Thematic 
narrative analysis is an examination of the content 
of a narrative. The researcher is looking for reoc- 
curring themes in the narrative that the partici- 
pants construct and present. It is not so much a 
question of how the narrative is presented, but 
what it contains. Conversely, structural narrative 
analysis focuses on the arrangement and organiza- 
tion of the narrative. This form of analysis has 
its early roots in the work of narrative pioneers 
William Labov and Joshua Waletzky. They were 
among the first social scientists to articulate the 
form and structure of narratives. 

When doing performative analysis, the researcher 
is examining the context of the narrative. Premised 
on Erving Goffman's dramaturgical theory, a per- 
formative analysis is aware that the narrative is not 
a verbatim recreation of events, but an identity 
presentation that incorporates sociocultural influ- 
ences. It also recognizes the researcher/interviewer 
as a critical element of the narrative. The narrator 
is constructing and presenting him- or herself to a 
particular person, at a particular time and place. 
When the narrative is analyzed as a performance, 
one can see where C. Wright Mill's sociological 
imagination comes into play, as the connection 



between private troubles and public issues is evi- 
dent in a single narrative. 

The last, and perhaps the most underdeveloped 
and least representative of the latest "turn" in 
social science research, is use of narrative analysis 
to explore visual material. Researchers in this sub- 
field of narrative analysis take their guidance from 
thematic and performance analysis methods. This 
means understanding the visual as representative 
of the experiences and social world of the visual 

Within each of these subfields of narrative 
analysis one sees that the first notion of character 
(who are the social actors, and what is their impor- 
tance to the narrative?) has a different level of 
focus. Doing thematic analysis means that with a 
focus on more societal or global issues, the actual 
characters are not of primary concern. The related 
acts and understandings tend to be at the center of 
analysis. Similarly, for structural analysis, it is not 
the actors in the narrative that are important, but 
the sociolinguistic elements such as clauses and 
word choices that become paramount to the analy- 
sis. It is with the last two forms of analysis, perfor- 
mance and visual, that the characters of the 
narrative become more important to the analysis 
process. In performance analysis the characters in 
the narrative are important to contextualize and 
situate the narrative in the larger sociocultural 

The other way that character can be understood 
in narrative analysis is to look at the overall tone 
and timbre of the narrative. This would involve 
identifying key elements and themes that would 
pervade different people's narratives and set them 
apart from others. This can be connected to the 
concept of genre. As narrative analysis has its his- 
toric base in literature, narrative researchers draw 
on literary genres to explain the types of narratives 
people present and why a particular genre form 
was selected. This could include presenting narra- 
tives that are comical, dramatic, heroic, tragic, and 
so on, as a way to get a certain point across to the 
audience and/or to make an identity claim. 


David Knight, Robert Woods, and Ines Jindra, in a 
case study project, looked at the differences in the 
way young men and women related their Christian 

conversion narratives at a small private university 
in Michigan. They recognized that conversion nar- 
ratives by and large have similar structural ele- 
ments, themes, and identifications that set them 
apart. What had been missing, they argued, was an 
understanding of the degree to which gender 
shapes the communication of the conversion nar- 
ratives. Drawing upon a more performative under- 
standing of narrative in this case, the researchers 
questioned what the connection was between gen- 
der and the way a narrative is communicated. 

One of the findings that is exceptionally perti- 
nent to this entry is their discovery of the partici- 
pants' use of character. In particular, who do the 
participants use as the central character in their 
conversion narrative? They coded for two broad 
categories in this instance: (1) self-oriented, and 
(2) other-oriented. As the codes would suggest, 
with a self-oriented central character, the narrator 
is the one driving the action in the narration. With 
the other-oriented central character, the person or 
persons moving the action at a critical juncture of 
the narration are not the narrator. This could 
include friends or family. 

After analyzing the narratives, Knight and his 
colleagues found that when males told their con- 
version narratives, they were the central character. 
To illustrate this, they provided the case of Eric. 
Raised in a Christian home, Eric included no one 
else, such as his parents and family, until the end 
of the narrative where the researcher probed for 
more details. Conversely, females tell of others 
being central characters to their conversion narra- 
tive. Marcie, whose narrative they presented, 
emphasized the role a young male friend of hers 
(and subsequently his Christian friends) had in her 
narration. Marcie presented herself almost as a 
bystander to the events that led up to her decision 
to convert to Christianity. In these findings we see 
that gender does play a role in how one communi- 
cates a (conversion) narrative, by looking at who 
occupies the central character role. 

Taking into consideration the second under- 
standing of character (the overall tone of a narra- 
tion), Mike Bury sets out to articulate the different 
ways one can analyze illness narratives. He sets the 
scene for his argument by stating that chronic ill- 
ness has a "heterogeneous" character in that its 
symptoms affect multiple aspects of everyday life. 
As such, there are two narratives that come to be 

140 Chicago School 

developed: biomedical and lay narratives. This 
heterogenic character of illness permeates the nar- 
ratives one tells about an ongoing illness. 

For Bury, this notion of the character of a nar- 
rative is most detailed when discussing contingent 
forms of illness narratives. In this broad form, the 
researcher is analyzing narrators' articulation of 
their knowledge and beliefs as it relates to the onset 
of their illness, the illness's progression, and its 
affect on themselves and others around them. The 
contingent character, as Bury describes it, can be 
roughly understood in two views. The categorical 
view presented in a narrative involves the separa- 
tion of what is normal and abnormal. This is rep- 
resentative of a biomedical understanding of illness. 
The spectral view understands that there is no firm 
distinction between what Bury has distinguished as 
illness and disease; here it is more a question of 
degrees. As such, illness in narratives that take this 
viewpoint is emergent in character; the social and 
psychological play a predominant role. 

Critical Summary 

Within the social science use of narratives, charac- 
ter tends to be a concept that is largely absent from 
the literature. Nonetheless, depending upon the 
form of the narrative analysis (thematic, structural, 
performative, and visual), characters in a narrative 
have varying degrees of importance. The other 
understanding of character as the overall tone of 
the narration tends to be more in line with an 
understanding of forms and genres. 

L. Lynda Harling Stalker 

See also Audience; Dramaturgy; Narrative Analysis; 
Narratives; Storytelling 

Further Readings 

Bury, M. (2001). Illness narratives: Fact or fiction? 

Sociology of Health and Illness, 23(3), 263-285. 
Goffman, E. (1959). The presentation of self in everyday 

life. New York: Anchor. 
Knight, D. A., Woods, R. H., Jr., & Jindra, I. W. (2005). 

Gender differences in the communication of Christian 

conversion narratives. Review of Religious Research, 

47(2), 113-134. 
Labov, W., & Waletzky, J. (1967). Narrative analysis: 

Oral versions of personal experience. In J. Helm (Ed.), 

Essays on the verbal and visual arts (pp. 12-44). 

Seattle: University of Washington Press. 
Mills, C. W. (1959). The sociological imagination. 

Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. 
Riessman, C. K. (2008). Narrative methods for the 

human sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Chicago School 

What has become known as the Chicago School 
of sociology refers to the majority of those work- 
ing between 1918 and 1965 in the Department of 
Sociology of the University of Chicago. Inspired 
by writings on social interaction, especially of 
those Wilhelm Dilthey and George H. Mead, the 
Chicago School eventually focused on case study 
and its analysis by analytic induction, later derived 
as grounded theory. The Chicago School pio- 
neered the case study method, illuminating the 
social instance by detail of the particular. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

By 1920 the case study method and its data analy- 
sis were established in the graduate department of 
sociology of the University of Chicago. The pio- 
neering and founding work, The Polish Peasant in 
Europe and America, by William Thomas and 
Florian Znaniecki, contributed to the epistemology 
and methodology of the case study method. First 
published between 1918 and 1920 as five volumes, 
Polish Peasant is set around the exchange of letters 
between Poland and the United States of families of 
new immigrants along with case records of the lives 
and living conditions of Polish immigrants written 
by U.S. assistance agencies. 

The coverage details explicit issues of adjust- 
ment to leaving Poland and being in the United 
States. Znaniecki, whom Thomas had met in 
Warsaw in 1913, talked in Polish to many mem- 
bers of the families to seek corroboration of detail. 
He is credited as the author of the methodological 
sections of the Polish Peasant. Znaniecki argued 
that research aspiring to application must work on 
special social problems, following the problem in a 
certain limited number of concrete social groups, 
studying it in every group with regard to the par- 
ticular form under the influence of the conditions 

Chicago School 141 

prevailing in this society. This, as Chicagoan Ernest 
Burgess observed, was the actual introduction of 
the case study as method. 

However, Znaniecki and Thomas attested dur- 
ing discussion at a meeting organized in 1937 by 
Herbert Blumer that the theory stated in the Polish 
Peasant and written after the field work was insuf- 
ficiently grounded in the data. During the discus- 
sion, which was fully transcribed, Thomas said 
that the behavior document, whether autobio- 
graphical, case record, or psychoanalytic explora- 
tion, is a more or less systematic record of 
individual experience, and the claim for the docu- 
ment is that the extensive record of comparison 
will reveal the general schematization of individual 
life. Thomas collected about 8,000 items for use in 
the study, and the authors provided a historical 
context for the study. 

William Thomas 

William Thomas, who earned his doctorate in 
sociology at Chicago, and in 1894 was appointed 
to the faculty, 2 years after the establishment of the 
graduate department. Visiting Germany during 
postdoctoral studies in literature, Thomas found 
that his interpretive, comparative, relative position 
on literature was similar to the reflexive sociology 
of Wilhelm Dilthey, whom he met, and Georg 
Simmel. It is to be noted that with few exceptions 
(e.g., Aldous Huxley, Franz Boas, Wilhelm Dilthey, 
Georg Simmel), the human sciences were domi- 
nated by measurement, experimental "proof," and 
social Darwinism. Dilthey argued that the natural 
sciences systemize their data by moving toward the 
abstract, seeking the kind of relation that can be 
put into an equation, whereas the human sciences 
systematize by seeing the particular fact more and 
more fully in its context among other facts struc- 
turally related to it. These observations remain 
relevant to case study. 

The University of Chicago, despite its Baptist 
foundation, was not determinist, but broad in out- 
look. John Dewey and George Mead were also 
appointed to the faculty in 1894, and the latter 
was especially influential, with Thomas, in the 
formation of the epistemology of what is nowa- 
days often called the School. The department 
always included people who focused on measure- 
ment, and some like W. F. Ogburn (Chicago 

1927-1952) were especially oppositional to what 
was by about 1920 called the case study method. 
Fine-detailed descriptive realist narratives had 
been written before the Polish Peasant by Jack 
London, who was demure about his celebration as 
a sociologist. The Road (1904) is a fully docu- 
mented case study of the life of a hobo, against 
which The Hobo (1923) by Nels Andersen, based 
on his Chicago doctorate, is meager in realist nar- 
rative. Both had lived as hobos for more than 4 
years; London kept notes, and Andersen went 
back into the field as a participant observer. 

Robert Park 

Subsequent to the Polish Peasant, the Chicago 
School pursued reflective, interpretive research 
grounded in field work. The subjectivities of 
researcher and researched were taken into account, 
guided by extensions of the "I, me, thou" relation- 
ships promulgated by Mead and Thomas. Crucial 
to their protocol for research was the formation of 
self by interaction with others in detailed social 
contexts. Thomas, and his spouse Dorothy, who 
founded systematic social observation, left per- 
force for the University of California at Berkeley in 
1942. He was succeeded on the faculty by senior 
investigative journalist and sociologist Robert 
Park, who had studied with Simmel. Park strength- 
ened the field work and life history research and 
with colleague Ernest Burgess wrote the first U.S. 
sociology textbook, published in 1921. 

Park researched, in part by case study method, 
the boundary maintenance and sources of con- 
flict between communities of immigrants in 
Chicago. The street and avenue grid of the rebuilt 
city provided the demarcation lines. Park consid- 
ered that many of his sociologist contemporaries 
were misguided in their attraction to an objective 
science, for their methods could not go beyond 
the superficial empirical facts. Park advocated the 
use of autobiography, letters, case records, fic- 
tion, and other items that were pristine rather 
than already categorized. Developing the work of 
Simmel, Park considered the field worker as a 
stranger in networks of affiliation, the details of 
which were to be discovered if at all possible by 
methods such as case study, document collection, 
unstructured interviews, observation, and partici- 
pant observation. 

142 Chicago School 

An outstanding student of Park's, completing 
his master's degree in 1925, was Willard Waller. 
Waller constructed case studies following the 
guidelines suggested by Park. His dissertation on 
divorce was published as were his related works on 
dating (courtship) and marriage. He moved his 
case study focus to the institution of the school, 
where he described in detail over time the forma- 
tion and dissolution of social relationships, the 
structure of the school, and the relationships to the 
wider community. 

In all his research, he pursued the horizontal 
and the vertical relationships using the evidence 
from his case studies. His 1932 book The Sociology 
of Teaching has, like his other work, had belated 
appreciation as pioneering and prescient. Indeed 
Waller, although deceased age 46, fulfilled much of 
promise of the methodology of the Polish Peasant 
in work that survives as insightful and stimulating 
to inquiry. 

Park developed the constant comparative 
method, as advocated by Thomas, in the sifting 
and inference stages of data analysis. The method 
is intrinsic to the Chicago case study method and 
in this sets the School apart from other universi- 
ties, which began studies of the detail of the par- 
ticular within explicit boundaries. The method of 
analysis developed and was later called analytic 
induction, or the analysis of deviant cases, and is 
central to "grounded theory." The method is a 
way of doing hypothesis-deduction and is most 
explicit in the post-1946 work of Chicagoans, 
especially Anslem Strauss and Howard S. Becker. 

Differences in Perspective: Blunter and Hughes 

Herbert Blumer studied with Park and devel- 
oped the self-other-context relationships of Mead 
into a social psychology centered on subjective 
meaningful exchanges: symbolic interaction. 
Blumer voraciously read the output from the 
Chicago School: case study, social ecology, social 
survey, and so on. He was the philosopher critic to 
all comers. Appointed to the Chicago School in 
1932, he was asked to assemble a critique of the 
Polish Peasant. The 1939 publication includes a 
transcript of the debate by the attendees, who 
included Thomas, Znaniecki, and Burgess. 

When another of Park's students, Everett Hughes, 
was appointed to the Chicago School faculty in 

1938, the friendly antagonism of Blumer provided 
colleagues and students with a constant compara- 
tive second opinion. Hughes advocated involve- 
ment in field work up to the neck and then, before 
drowning, returning to reflect on what had been 
learned. Blumer was never a field worker, and cau- 
tioned colleagues and students on what he consid- 
ered the atheoretical and perilous forays advocated 
by Hughes. Between the cautions and forays, the 
Chicagoans of the 1940s to 1962 produced numer- 
ous field work-based case studies that penetrated 
the masks and mirrors of institutions and careers 
and role. 

After earning his Chicago doctorate in 1928, 
Hughes completed a major community study of an 
industrializing town in Quebec stemming directly 
from the work of his teacher Park and strongly 
influenced by Simmel. On his appointment to 
Chicago, Hughes theorized about work and career, 
and researched these and transitions of role and 
identity. Hughes, with Park's contemporary Ernest 
Burgess, taught the compulsory field work course, 
sustaining a focus on the city of Chicago. Integral 
to the course was the allocation of a census tract to 
various student pairs, each being told to collect 
data about their assigned plot. Thus students were 
thrown into field work "on the hoof," as Hughes 
called it. Each course required a research paper, 
not an exam. 


The Third Generation 

In 1955, Hughes in collaboration with Strauss, 
Becker, and Geer began the study of the socializa- 
tion of medical students at the University of Kansas. 
Hughes was the director based in Chicago; most of 
the field work and writing was done by Becker, 
who was resident in Kansas City, and Strauss, 
along with Blanche Geer. Boys in White: Student 
Culture in Medical School displays the power and 
subtlety of the case study method; indeed it com- 
prises many case studies. The data were assembled 
from participant observation of all phases of the 
"rite de passage," from documents, interviews, and 
so-called casual remarks. The researchers pursued 
apparent discrepancies and lacunae in the data in 
the process of its collection. No data were dis- 
carded, for all hypotheses were heuristic rather 
than firm during the process of the field work. 

Chicago School 143 

Toward the end of the field work, the research- 
ers had a sufficient level of confidence that they 
were able to describe the processes of induction 
into professional medicine. This process was rich 
with conflicting demands and expectations of fac- 
ulty as compared to students, whose ideals about 
medical practice were challenged, even overcome 
by the mundane yet priority demand of medicine 
under pressure of time and urgency. Boys in White 
and the subsequent study by the same collabora- 
tors on the consequences of graded testing in uni- 
versity, Making the Grade, are outstanding 
examples of interpretive field work forming case 
studies. Other notable case studies based on the 
deviant case analysis include Timetables by Julius 
Roth, Goldbricking by Donald Roy, and The 
Urban Villagers by Herbert Gans. Ervin Goffman's 
work was more orientated to illustrating and 
establishing theories. In Timetables, Roth began 
case studies of a TB hospital, whence he contracted 
TB and completed the studies from the perspective 
of a patient. 

Anselm Strauss (Chicago 1952-1958) was 
appointed after his graduate studies in the depart- 
ment, as Blumer was leaving. Strauss understood 
the qualitative, interpretive, quantitative, and 
demographic and was also a field worker, method- 
ologist, and theorist. In the 1960s he researched 
institutional social relationships in psychiatric hos- 
pitals where case studies detailed the shifting role 
and identities of both patients and staff. In a sub- 
sequent study, with Barney Glaser, of a terminal 
cancer ward, the case studies raised many ques- 
tions about how staff conducted themselves in 
providing more or less information to the patient 
to raise or attenuate awareness of dying. 

Strauss was keenly aware of the gap between 
theory and research as identified by Blumer, and 
published extensively on the epistemology and 
logic of interactionist research, discussing case 
method, which he considered synonymous with 
case study. His book Qualitative Analysis for 
Social Scientists is invaluable not only for its meth- 
odological content regarding constant comparison 
but also for setting that analysis in the wider con- 
text of qualitative and statistical methodologies. 

Howard S. Becker completed all his degrees at 
Chicago, commencing in 1943 and completing his 
doctorate, on Chicago schoolteachers, with Hughes, 
in 1951. During the late 1940s, as a pianist, he 

used participant observation to study the perspec- 
tives of dance band musicians, this becoming his 
master's thesis. Written mostly as narratives about 
the musicians, his work includes many case studies 
framed by a symbolic interactionist and reflexive 
theory. The same is true of his Becoming a 
Marijuana User, which details how the user learns 
to appreciate the special qualities of marijuana 
from sessions with experienced smokers. Through 
a career spanning 60 years, Becker sustained and 
further developed through his creativity the research 
of the Chicago School. His 1982 Art Worlds is 
about the political economy of the visual art mar- 
ket, rich with detail of the particular woven into a 
descriptive theory, iterating cases. 

Becker took part in a 1975 conference in the 
United Kingdom on the use of case study in evalu- 
ation and educational research [The Science of the 
Singular, 1980,) and integrated past and present 
understanding subsequently through meetings of 
1988 and 1989, leading to the book, What Is a 
Case? (1992). Becker's chapter succinctly reiterates 
the main issues and extends these to related prob- 
lems of present and future case study research. 
Having considered the worth of correlational and 
conjuctural analysis of cases, Becker takes up his 
position, which elaborates the centrality of devel- 
oping imagery for research, this being propounded 
by Blumer. Becker concludes, 

Narrative styles of analysis devote a lot of time 
and energy to developing this imagery, which is 
another way of talking about the analysis of the 
dependent variable. Developing imagery is a pro- 
cess in which we try to understand what we want 
to understand better. We do not search for causes 
so much as look for stories that explain what it 
is and how it got that way. When an analyst of 
causes has done the job well, the result is a large 
proportion of variance explained. When an ana- 
lyst of narrative has done the job well, the result 
is a story that explains why it is inevitable that 
this process led to this result, (p. 212) 

Critical Summary 

In What Is a Case?, Andrew Abbott, currently 
professor at the University of Chicago, reconsiders 
the influence of Park and his students. For Park, 
concludes Abbott, causal analysis was secondary 

144 Chronological Order 

to description, or narrative. Park encouraged 
the seeking of "universal narratives" such as those 
that reiterate the stages of development toward, 
for instance, delinquent behavior, revolution, 
industrial crisis, and occupational orientation, this 
latter being by far the dominant area of Chicago 
case study. Abbott ends his chapter with a plea to 
policymakers and social scientists to consider nar- 
rative case study as much or more than popula- 
tion-variable studies, as the former would disclose 
more of the causes of organizational perturbation. 
The innovative work of the Chicago School, exem- 
plified in the work of Becker and of Strauss, con- 
tinues to stimulate and be emulated by those 
struggling with case study. 

Clem Adelman 

See also Abduction; Case Study as a Methodological 
Approach; Case Study Research in Anthropology; 
Case Study Research in Education; Case Study 
Research in Medicine; Case Study Research in Political 
Science; Case Study Research in Psychology; Diaries 
and Journals; Grounded Theory; Interpretivism 

Further Readings 

Anderson, N. (1923). The hobo. Chicago: University of 

Chicago Press. 
Becker, H. S. (1963). Outsiders. New York: Free Press. 
Becker, H. S. (1982). Art worlds. Berkeley: University of 

California Press. 
Blumer, H. (1939). An appraisal of Thomas and 

Znaniecki's The Polish peasant in Europe and 

America. New York: Social Science Council. 
Bulmer, M. (1984). The Chicago school of sociology: 

Institutionalization, diversity and the rise of sociological 

research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 
Fine, G. A. (1995). A second Chicago school: The 

development of a post-war American sociology. 

Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 
Gans, H. (1962). The urban villagers: Group and class in 

the life of Italian-Americans. New York: Free Press. 
Hughes, E. C. (1984). The sociological eye. New 

Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books. 
Ragin, C. C, & Becker, H. S. (1992). What is a case? 

Exploring the foundations of social inquiry. 

Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 
Roth, J. (1963). Timetables. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill. 
Roy, D. F. (1952). Quota restriction and goldbricking in 

a machine shop. American journal of Sociology, 57, 


Strauss, A. L. (1987). Qualitative analysis for social 

scientists. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University 

Thomas, W. I., & Znaniecki, F. (1918). The Polish 

peasant in Europe and America. Chicago: University 

of Chicago Press. 
Thomas, W. I., & Znaniecki, F. (1920). The Polish 

peasant in Europe and America. Boston: Badger Press. 

Chronological Order 

Chronological order applies to case study research 
in several ways and refers to the sequencing of 
events as they successively occur or have occurred. 
Simple ordering by such measures as date and time 
of day allows events to be presented and considered 
in a sequential, systematic, and organized manner. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Chronological time and, by implication, chrono- 
logical order are to a large extent culturally depen- 
dent. In agrarian or aboriginal cultures and in 
some belief systems where time (and thus order) is 
reckoned as seasonal, cyclical, or generational, the 
chronological construct is less useful for grasping 
meanings of time as it is experienced by members 
of that culture. Some indigenous cultures (e.g., 
Hopi Indians) hold the view that all events are in 
present time and have no conceptual use for past 
or future dimensions. In such situations the what 
of an event is of greater importance for that indi- 
vidual or group of individuals than the when of the 
event. Accounting for such conceptions in case 
study research means acknowledging the represen- 
tation as one way of providing context that is 
external to the event and may not fit with indi- 
vidual depictions held by researchers unfamiliar 
with cultural variations. 

Chronological ordering is a device for imposing 
structure in ways that attend to sequence and 
duration as might be perceived and measured 
through inquiry of some sort directed by the topic 
and issues of interest. Clocks and chronological 
time are fairly recent developments, used in early 
days as assistive devices for summoning the reli- 
gious to worship, workers to industry, and as a 
navigational aid. The division of time into zones 

Chronological Order 145 

and yearly units into months, weeks, days, hours, 
minutes, and seconds has acted in fundamental 
ways that facilitate communication, commerce, 
and social cohesion around the globe. 


Consideration of the temporal domain in case study 
research applies beyond data arrangement and per- 
tains to the researcher and sequencing of materials 
and methods used to gather data as well as ordering 
of data presentation in the research report. 
Chronological order is also known as natural order, 
as one event must precede or follow another event 
unless they occur simultaneously. Considering 
events in order of occurrence is a familiar device for 
organization such as can be found in stories that 
have a beginning, middle, and end, such as case 
studies presented in a narrative format. 

Composition of a constructed story line depends 
on how the author chronologically organizes her 
or his procedures in order of processes and that 
guide inquiry. An inductive approach might derive 
from an existing framework imposing guidelines 
for the development of specific understandings, 
assumptions, and questions. A more deductive 
approach might consider events an issue for dis- 
covery of themes or central problematics, which 
then guide ordering and sequencing of subsequent 
steps, which may or may not be in chronological 
order. Order of encounter with issues as presented 
in research may thus cause different conceptions 
than issues first encountered in practice. 

During initial problem development, the order 
in which related research is encountered may lead 
to or away from certain predispositions or attitudes 
toward the question or issue under examination. 
For example, a study of reading patterns may take 
a different turn if the author considers materials 
addressing matters of race, class, and gender prior 
to, or following, problem and question formula- 
tion. Topic and timing in the sequencing of ques- 
tions or discovery of materials can predispose 
patterns of response or analysis visible as meaning- 
making occurs during data analysis. Interviewer 
skills also increase over time as familiarity and 
comfort with procedures grow. Transcripts may 
show the effects of chronological time and experi- 
ence as a tenth interview is usually of higher quality 
and more insightful than a first interview. 

Following a chronological order in the elicita- 
tion of information, events, and meanings provides 
a chronicle of events organized by a time line. 
Temporal arrangement of events creates context 
from which meaning(s) can be derived depending 
on other events that occurred before, simultane- 
ously with, or after the event in question. 
Relationships between events can be considered as 
cause, consequence, or coincidence based on 
chronological order or timing. Causal (X caused 
Y) or logical (X caused Y in ways that cannot be 
measured) relationships depend on chronological 
order and assume that X must precede Y, other- 
wise Y would not have occurred, and if Y did 
occur anyway, then something else caused it. 

Sequence of collection may be different from the 
sequence imposed on events when arranged for 
reporting. Unless chronological order is rigorously 
imposed by an interviewer (which may cause a loss 
of valuable information), a participant's sequenc- 
ing of recalled events, opinions, or ideas may show 
memory paths or an ordering of events in terms of 
a psychological time frame that draws experiences 
and perceptions together by like feelings or emo- 
tive content rather than the when of occurrence. 
Inventories of events, whether labeled by time or 
the nature of the episode, can assist the subsequent 
development of domains, taxonomies, compo- 
nents, and themes for reporting that capture the 
experience for the reader. 

Chronological order is useful if not necessary 
for coherence when multiple accounts or partici- 
pants are considered in context. Placement of cases 
or situations relative to each other in terms of 
actual occurrence can be used for verification or 
for purposes of contrast or comparison and can 
provide a context for simultaneous occurrences in 
other domains or cases. The conceptual calibration 
afforded by chronological ordering can assist criti- 
cal assessment of balance between the beginning 
and ending of accounts by reversing their order. 

Reverse chronological ordering is a technique 
sometimes used to ensure that history or back- 
ground, whether of a client or research participant, 
does not outweigh current status or responses to 
investigative questions. Reverse ordering may also 
reveal relational aspects of events less visible when 
otherwise examined. Planned order may thus be 
revised as emergent themes cause reordering when 
contrasted with the order of necessity afforded by 

146 Class Analysis 

linear representations of time, whether forward or 

In collaborative research, more than one 
researcher and participant are usually involved 
and need to account for cross-event comparisons 
based on simultaneity. Chronological time or sce- 
nario-based time can facilitate understanding 
occurrences when viewed forward and backward 
as more balanced attention is paid across and 
within the beginning, interactive, and current sta- 
tus of investigative relations to the problems and 
participants at hand. Annotations of meaning in 
the form of links that transcend chronological 
ordering may assist larger understandings. Such 
approaches involve hermeneutical and phenome- 
nological approaches that identify themes across 
and within stories and tellers. Data sources such as 
might be used to provide triangulation may be 
more robust when linked or associated by chrono- 
logical ordering. 

Chronological order can play a role in research 
as a long-term or short-term measuring stick. 
Daniel Levinson's Seasons of a Man's Life (1978) 
and Seasons of a Woman's Life (1996) covered 
significant portions of the life course of selected 
groups for many years. Studies of shorter duration 
include Rebecca Reiff's A Day in the Life of a 
Student Teacher. 

Chronological ordering is also used for the 
development of sequence in chapter formulation 
for research reports. Communication of the pro- 
cess, content, and findings of a research study need 
to be presented in a systematic way that is intelli- 
gible and logical for the reader. Thus in the stan- 
dard five-chapter format used in many reports 
(problem statement, related research, methods, 
findings, and conclusions), steps logically follow 
each other in both conceptual and temporal frames 
as each stage is dependent on matters addressed in 
the previous one. 

Critical Summary 

Chronological order and its companions, time, 
timing, and duration, are research tools that facili- 
tate precision in communication of events. 
Attention to the expectations of such accounting 
methods in certain types of research is important 
for adherence to methodological consistency. 
However, alternatives to chronological order (e.g., 

psychological or seasonal) that require stepping off 
a time line may add details and richness to a study 
and acknowledge cultural and conceptual varia- 
tions in the representations of events. 

Michael Kompf 

See also Before-and-After Case Study Design; Collective 
Case Study; Documentation as Evidence; Event-Driven 
Research; Juncture; Life History; Narratives; Process 
Tracing; Processual Case Research; Retrospective 
Case Study 

Further Readings 

Alpert, B., & Bechar, S. (2007). Collaborative evaluation 
research: A case study of teachers' and academic 
researchers' teamwork in a secondary school. Studies 
in Educational Evaluation, 33(3-4), 229-257. 
Retrieved June 23, 2008, from doi:10.1016/j. 

Patton, M. (2001). Qualitative research and evaluation 
methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Yin, R. K. (2003). Case study research: Design and 
methods (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Zucker, D. M. (2001, June). Using case study 

methodology in nursing research. Qualitative Report, 
6(2). Retrieved June 23, 2008, from http://www.nova 

Class Analysis 

Class analysis is a theoretical approach in the 
social sciences. It explores the determinants and 
consequences of social phenomena in terms of 
class and class relations. Class analysis views soci- 
ety as being divided into hierarchical strata that 
have unequal access to material resources, power, 
and influence. It is based on the premise that class 
systematically and significantly impacts the lives 
of individuals, the dynamics of institutions, or the 
patterns of social change. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Class analysis can be conducted at either the 
microlevel or the macrolevel. The microlevel class 
analysis explores the ways in which individuals' 
class locations determine their well-being, beliefs, 

Class Analysis 147 

and behavior (e.g., voting behavior, ideology, and 
offspring's educational attainment). The macrolevel 
class analysis focuses on the effects of class struc- 
ture or class relations on a variety of institutions 
and trajectories of history (e.g., how variations in 
class structure across time or space, such as the 
decline of the industrial working class, affect the 
type of state or political regime). 

Although class analysis has figured prominently 
in a great deal of social science research, the word 
class, which is pivotal in any class analysis, is one 
of the most contested concepts in the social sci- 
ences. There are varieties of class analysis; and 
these varieties are grounded in different under- 
standings of what class is and contesting approaches 
to how best one can identify and/or measure differ- 
ent classes. The main distinction is between the 
gradational and relational notions of class. 

In the gradational notion, class is used to 
describe a set of layers or strata in a hierarchy. 
These strata are generally distinguished on the 
basis of inequalities in material conditions such as 
income or wealth, as in the terms of upper class, 
middle class, and lower class. But they do not 
stand in any systematic social relationship to each 
other. Thus the gradational class concept does not 
entail any notion of systematic relations among 
defined classes. Social science research that is pri- 
marily interested in the statistical correlation of 
income and wealth with various social outcomes 
mostly uses a gradational definition of class. 

In the relational conception of class, classes are 
defined in relationship to other classes. Given 
classes are internally related; that is, they are 
defined on the basis of the social relations that 
connect them to each other. The interests of a par- 
ticular class are a function of the relations that 
bind it to other classes. The relational approach to 
class is interested in the causal mechanisms that 
produce socioeconomic inequalities as well as class 
as a collective actor that pursues its interests. 


There are, however, different traditions of class 
analysis that adopt a relational notion of class. The 
two most influential are the Marxian and Weberian 
traditions. Karl Marx was the first to develop a 
systematic theory of class, and his theory greatly 
influenced how the concept of class analysis has 

been developed and used. According to Marxist 
scholars, production relations (who produces 
what, how, and for whom) are the most important 
of all social relations. The relations of production 
form the material basis of classes. Individuals who 
occupy similar positions in the production rela- 
tions objectively belong to the same class. Classes 
are defined by the relationships of exploitation. 
Therefore, class relations are inherently contradic- 
tory and antagonistic, not only in terms of income 
or wealth distribution but also and more impor- 
tantly in terms of production relations. 

In capitalist societies, the working class and the 
capitalist class are the fundamental classes; and the 
key dynamic feature of capitalism is the exploita- 
tion of workers by capitalists. Marxist class analy- 
sis puts the emphasis on exploitation and 
antagonistic interests. Class is at the center of 
social change because of the conflicts antagonistic 
class interests create. Thus Marxist class analysis 
embodies a theory of historical change. 

Marxist class analysis has three main elements 
that form the subjective and objective existence of 
class. The first element is class structure, which is 
the totality of objective class positions that make 
up a society. The second and third elements are 
class formation and class struggle. Class formation 
refers to the process of an objectively given class 
becoming aware of itself and its interests in rela- 
tion to other classes and its organizing into a col- 
lective actor. A social class as a collective actor 
engages in a variety of practices to defend its inter- 
ests in opposition to other classes, thus creating 
class struggles. Marxist class analysis has been 
criticized for its failure to account for the middle 
class in capitalist societies. Critics argue that pro- 
fessionals and white-collar employees do not easily 
fit into the Marxist analysis of class because they 
are neither working class nor capitalists. 

Like Marxist theory, the Weberian approach to 
class analysis — hased on the work of Max Weber — 
also has a relational notion of class. Unlike the 
Marxist approach, the Weberian notion of class 
focuses on exchange or market relations rather 
than production relations. It assumes no inherent, 
irresolvable conflicts of interest between classes. 
The hallmark of the Weberian approach is its view 
of the multidimensionality of social stratification. 
While class is an important determinant of the 
social hierarchy in modern society, it is not the 

148 Class Analysis 

only factor. A variety of other factors, including 
authority, prestige, and occupation, play an impor- 
tant role in creating social divisions. Modern soci- 
ety is divided into many status groups that are 
determined by prestige and lifestyles, and that are 
distinct from social classes. 

There are numerous case studies on a wide vari- 
ety of subjects that employ class analysis. One of 
the major subjects for such studies is the class char- 
acter of state institutions and policies in particular 
countries or political systems. A good example is 
Leo Panitch and Donald Swartz's study of the 
Canadian state's trade union policy. Many such 
studies investigate whether or to what extent the 
state is independent of the dominant class in soci- 
ety. The most influential of such class analyses 
of state autonomy include the work of Ralph 
Miliband, Nicos Poulantzas, Goran Therborn, and 
Bob Jessop. Gosta Esping-Andersen and Walter 
Korpi have conducted case studies of the welfare 
state in industrialized countries from a class analy- 
sis perspective. They explain the differences 
between countries in the historical development 
and type of the welfare state in terms of the class 
power of labor relative to other social classes. 

During the past two decades, the relevance of 
the concept of class and of class analysis has been 
intensely debated. The downfall of communism 
and the loss of appeal of Marxism as a political 
project fueled arguments about the failure of class 
analysis. Although not all class analyses are 
Marxist, the class concept occupied a significant 
place in social science research during the 20th 
century to a significant extent due to the intellec- 
tual and political influence of Marxism. The 
decline of the influence of Marxism has been 
accompanied by a variety of arguments about the 
increasingly problematic nature of class-based 
explanations as well as the declining political rel- 
evance of class. Some commentators have argued 
that as a result of the major changes in employ- 
ment relations, such as casualization of employ- 
ment, decline of blue-collar industrial jobs, growth 
of service sector occupations, and hence increasing 
individuation in employment relations in recent 
decades, class no longer forms the bases for identi- 
ties and collective action. Ethnicity, gender, or 
value commitment often now provides the refer- 
ents for identity and political activism that once 
flowed from class. 

Critiques of class analysis have also argued that 
the important conflicts and cleavages of contempo- 
rary society are not class based; they revolve 
around nonclass issues such as gender inequality, 
minority rights, and the environment. For some 
critiques, class analysis is inadequate as an explan- 
atory framework for contemporary society because 
personal lives are increasingly autonomized as a 
result of the spread of the culture of consumerism. 

Critical Summary 

There have been two broad responses to the criti- 
cism of the failure of class analysis. The first 
response is to abandon the previously influential 
approaches to class analysis in favor of new 
approaches. Many of those who made a case for a 
new approach to class have been influenced by 
postmodern theory. They reject a single meta- 
narrative of class and call for a pluralistic approach 
that reflects the diversity of culture and identity. 
Some have developed an explanatory framework 
that emphasizes the interdependence of the differ- 
ent social categories of class, gender, and ethnicity 
or race without assuming the primacy of class a 
priori. It is argued that class, gender, and ethnicity 
are internally linked and that systematic inequali- 
ties associated with any of these social categories 
are systematically related. That is, they can be 
understood only in relation to one another but 
without reducing them to any one category. These 
postmodernist inspired approaches to class and 
social stratification place more emphasis on ide- 
ational and discursive practices than material fac- 
tors in explaining systematic inequalities and 
oppression in society. 

The second response to the crisis of class analy- 
sis is to refine or revise the earlier major theories of 
class, mostly Marxian and Weberian, in order to 
address their inadequacies in view of the extensive 
transformations that have occurred in the spheres 
of production, market, and consumption on both 
the domestic and international scales. Unlike the 
first strategy, the second strategy remains commit- 
ted to developing a comprehensive framework of 
concepts and methodology for the analysis of class 
and stratification. It is based on the conviction that 
it is possible and desirable analytically to separate 
class from other social categories while recogniz- 
ing that they are combined in concrete situations. 

Closure 149 

Some scholars have recently pursued one of the 
two strategies in revising existing major approaches 
to class analysis to better reflect contemporary 
conditions. One strategy is to extend class analysis 
to the global or transnational level in recognition 
of the fact that national societies and economies 
are increasingly interconnected as a result of glo- 
balization. Until recently, class analysis, whether 
Marxist or non-Marxist, had taken national soci- 
ety as the primary unit of analysis. A growing 
number of class analysts have started to explore 
the emergence of classes and class relations that 
cut across countries. These class analyses have 
focused mostly on the formation of a transnational 
capitalist class as a result of the growing weight of 
transnational corporations and foreign direct 

The second strategy is to refine or add class 
positions within the framework of an existing class 
theory. Some Marxist class analysts, for example, 
have tackled the problem of how to accommodate 
middle-class professionals and new service employ- 
ees within the Marxist class analysis that desig- 
nates classes on the basis of exploitation in the 
production process. These efforts often involved 
borrowing concepts from the Weberian approach, 
such as authority, autonomy, and credentials. In 
conclusion, there have been significant efforts to 
reformulate and reinvigorate class analysis in 
response to its recent crisis. 

Nilgun Onder 

See also Base and Superstructure; Critical Theory; 

Historical Materialism; Means of Production; Modes 
of Production; Postmodernism; Praxis 

Further Readings 

Crompton, R., Devine, F., Savage, M., & Scott, J. (Eds.). 

(2000). Renewing class analysis. Oxford, UK: 

McNall, S. G., Levine, R. F., & Fantasia, R. (Eds.). 

(1991). Bringing class back in. Boulder, CO: Westview 

Pakulski, J., & Waters, M. (1996). The reshaping and 

dissolution of social class in advanced society. Theory 

and Society, 25, 667-691. 
Panitch, L., & Swartz, D. (1993). The assault on trade 

union freedoms: From wage controls to social 

contract. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Garamond Press. 

Robinson, W. I. (2000). Toward a global ruling class? 

Globalization and the transnational capitalist class. 

Science and Society, 64, 11-54. 
Wright, E. O. (1997). Class counts: Comparative studies 

in class analysis. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge 

University Press. 
Wright, E. O. (Ed.). (2005). Approaches to class analysis. 

Cambridge, UK, & New York: Cambridge 

University Press. 


Closure signifies that an event or series of events 
have occurred and reached an end or an end stage 
when planned or anticipated finalization or disen- 
gagement has or ought to have occurred. Closure 
implies resolution of matters associated with an 
event to the extent that individuals associated 
with the experience in question can move forward 
with a sense of conclusion and end. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Closure is a process with conceptual gradients 
attached to companion terms duration, ending, and 
resolution. By way of example, sporting events con- 
clude when marked by the bell or whistle that signi- 
fies duration limit and the end of the event. 
Outcomes are determined by such rules or criteria 
that govern the activity, and resolutions or scores 
are entered into an official record under the appro- 
priate statistical or outcome category. Once that 
event has terminated and the factual aspects of it 
are transformed into a data set, additional aspects 
of process may occur regarding incidents during the 
contest and stand as mythologized markers of the 
event. Depending on whether the contest was car- 
ried out with good or poor sportsmanship, fairly 
refereed or judged, replete with distinguishing 
behaviors or accomplishments (or lack thereof), 
and if the event carried large significance, for exam- 
ple, The World Cup of Soccer, resolution may not 
occur in spite of duration limit and end of contest. 
Residual markers of feats and follies as might be 
discussed at the next match would indicate that full 
closure is no more possible than full objectivity, as 
related events may invoke memory traces that open 
the event for reconsideration and reconstruction, 



such as new contexts for discussion and meaning- 
making provide. 

Closure in case study research is more compli- 
cated than sporting events as the personal stakes of 
psychological well-being are involved. Research 
questions developed for use in case studies that 
take advantage of the variety of available methods 
are intended to introduce a topic or question for 
the purposes of eliciting a truthful, meaningful, 
and significant response that can be used to elabo- 
rate or buttress findings later on. Questions about 
soccer games may evoke a set of responses basi- 
cally contained within the respondent's constella- 
tion of constructs pertaining to soccer. It would 
make a large difference if the respondent were a 
fan, or a member of the team primarily responsible 
for winning (or losing) the contest. Added mean- 
ing-value is present dependent on the proximity 
and level of investment of the participant in ques- 
tions and issues posed for consideration. 

Opinions of experiences are different from 
opinions derived from experience as are vantage 
points of observers and participant observers. 
Different forms and depths of psychological motion 
begin with reflection on experienced events depend- 
ing on level of impact and potency of derived 
meaning for the participant. Residual issues arising 
from questions about a match posed to the fan 
would likely be transitory and short-lived. The 
same questions asked of the winning or losing 
players would carry a greater likelihood of residual 
effects. The span of intellectual, emotional, physi- 
cal, and perhaps spiritual connotations and attri- 
butions covering the range between victory and 
defeat is vast and rich with signifiers of meaning 
and understanding. 


Identifying and isolating a particularly meaningful 
or loaded event for examination, while compelling 
from an investigative perspective, carries with it 
the researcher's responsibility for ensuring closure 
in ways consistent with the expectations of Ethical 
Review Boards (Canada) or Institutional Review 
Boards (United States) and the most reasonable 
care and consideration for participant welfare. 
Whether pertaining to losing athletes, victims of 
violence and abuse, failing students, or burned-out 
teachers, opening issues with significant impact for 

discussion means that additional care, attention, 
and measures must be in place to ensure adequate 
closure beyond the duration of the study. While 
participants do have ownership of their stories and 
do agree through informed consent to share them 
through inquiry, safety measures such as termina- 
tion at any time to facilitate ease of closure must 
be anticipated when disclosure and discussion of 
perturbing events is part of, or inadvertently 
becomes part of the research process. Significant 
authentic engagement by the participant is an indi- 
cation that extraordinary opportunities for closure 
may need to be in place. Closure may also require 
a physical or symbolic component such as publica- 
tion and acknowledged co-construction of a mean- 
ingful account laden with meaning and learning. 

Ross and Wright consider closure as it might be 
reached in simulations for training purposes and 
agree that it is a complex and multifaceted area that 
merits special consideration in that context. Such 
issues can only be of more vital consideration in 
real-life research. Equally important are symbolic 
closures such as destruction of transcripts or story 
pages as a way of acknowledging catharsis, control, 
and closure. Engagement with any participant on 
any question must ensure that appropriate checks 
are in place to bring about such reasonable closure 
as is possible in the circumstances of the research. 
Follow-up as promised (e.g., sharing findings or 
publication) and follow-up as dictated by respect 
for participation are essential and may in some 
cases prove more insightful than initial research 

Critical Summary 

Closure, while desirable from a research perspec- 
tive for both participants and researchers, may not 
be possible in its fullest sense. Self-declared closure 
may be the best that can be expected from research 
participants and must be accepted at face value by 
the researcher unless other problematic indications 
arise. Closure may be difficult to reach since requi- 
site conditions may be as complex as the variety of 
issues of interest to researchers. 

Michael Kompf 

See also Alienation; Authenticity; Bounding the Case; 
Case Selection; Ethics; Interviews; Life History; 

Codifying Social Practices 151 

Further Readings 

Citro, C. F., Ilgen, D. R., & Marrett, C. B. (Eds.). (2003). 
Protecting participants and facilitating social and 
behavioral sciences research. Washington, DC: 
National Academies Press. Retrieved June 23, 2008, 

Ross, J. W., & Wright, L. (2000). Participant-created case 
studies in professional training. Journal of Workplace 
Learning: Employee Counselling Today, 12(1), 23-28. 

Scott, J. (1990). A matter of record: Documentary sources 
in social research. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. 

Webster, D., & Kruglanski, A. (1994). Individual 
differences in need for cognitive closure, journal of 
Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 1049-1062. 

Codifying Social Practices 

Codifying social practices amounts to embarking 
on a process of transforming practical knowledge — 
knowing in action — into a message that can be 
processed as information. Today the social sciences, 
especially management, are interested in actors' 
practices and the progression of those practices. 
This new kind of research implies new kinds of 
investigation. Thus, qualitative methodologies have 
to consider not only how people tell about their 
practices, but also knowledge that is performed. 
Those undertaking case study research will inevita- 
bly encounter knowledge that is practical (tacit) 
and will face the task of codifying that knowledge. 
After a brief overview of the sense that codify- 
ing social practices has acquired in the develop- 
ment of our societies, and its challenges within a 
knowledge-based economy, this entry then exam- 
ines it within the framework of two extreme forms 
taken by knowledge management. It then exam- 
ines the complex question of the tacit nature of 
practical knowledge — knowing in action — and 
finally the spontaneous and scientific methodolog- 
ical approaches designed to explain it. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

History and Challenges of 
Codifying of Social Practices 

The codification of social practices begins with 
writing. According to Jack Goody, this operation 

expresses broadly a society's will to make up for 
the weaknesses and uncertainties of human mem- 
ory with the aim of storing knowledge, perceived 
as a learning program. But writing also has cogni- 
tive effects on society, by developing abstraction 
capacities and the critical function, which play a 
specific role in encouraging new knowledge pro- 
duction. This operation takes on a particular value 
today, according to Dominique Foray, in relation 
to the emergence of a knowledge-based economy. 
In effect, the key factors for the success of compa- 
nies and national economies are more than ever 
dependent on their capacities to produce and use 
knowledge. Since the main source of this knowl- 
edge is tacit, the problem of codification becomes 
vital in economic terms. In effect, codification 
makes it possible to detach knowledge from the 
person who possesses it. It involves a fixed cost — 
that of expressing the knowledge in a language and 
recording it on some form of support (e.g., paper, 
databases) — but then increases the efficiency of a 
whole series of knowledge management opera- 
tions: memorization, distribution, learning. Once a 
formula has been written, which may represent a 
significant fixed cost, it may then be communi- 
cated broadly at a negligible marginal cost. In the 
management field, Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka 
Takeuchi have identified a key stage in the spiral of 
organizational knowledge creation, the spearhead 
of Japanese company performance: the stage 
known as externalization. It consists of the passage 
from tacit knowing to explicit knowledge. The 
codification of tacit knowing has become a chal- 
lenge for both economists and managers — even as 
it is for researchers. It is a complex operation, due 
to the very nature of tacit knowing, which still 
seems impossible to reduce to a codification opera- 
tion. In addition, the codification process can 
never supply all the knowledge necessary to under- 
take an action. 

In pragmatic terms, companies that have under- 
taken knowledge management have found this 
problem a stumbling block at some point in the 
process. It arises in different ways, depending on 
the strategy implemented. Morten T. Hansen, 
Nitin Nohria, and Thomas Tierney have identified 
two key ways of envisaging knowledge manage- 
ment by organizations: Organizations operate with 
two different knowledge management strategies, 
namely a codification strategy where knowledge is 

152 Codifying Social Practices 

codified and stored in databases, and a personaliza- 
tion strategy where personal interaction is essential. 
These two forms of knowledge management reflect 
different visions of the organization — on one side, 
the paradigm of Herbert Simon's information pro- 
cessing system; and on the other, the community of 
practice of Jean Lave and Etienne C. Wenger. On 
one side there is a cognitivist vision, in information 
system terms, of knowledge management: It is the 
image of a physical platform for storage of infor- 
mation; on the other is a communitarist vision, in 
terms of management of human resources, of 
knowledge management: It is the image of the 
social network. The codification operation is as 
essential to the first strategy as it is negligible or 
even nonexistent in the second. Rather than com- 
pletely contrasting these two forms of manage- 
ment, many authors try to combine them. We may 
well ask whether we are not actually in the pres- 
ence of two socio-technical configurations, as 
defined by Bruno Latour, that we must describe 
effectively: What is a data warehouse without the 
people who use it? What is a social network that 
operates without any physical support? The opera- 
tion of codification takes different forms, depend- 
ing on the socio-technical pairing modes applied. 
Subsequently, we can envisage within a community 
of practice where there is mentoring between an 
expert and a novice, which is based, at a given 
moment in time, on the expert's expression of his 
practice, taking the form of a written discourse that 
the novice will use as a support within the frame- 
work of his learning. To tackle the question of 
codification from a methodological point of view, 
we must examine the nature of tacit knowing. 

Nature and Foundations of Tacit Knowing 

The universally recognized authority in any dis- 
cussion of tacit knowing is Michael Polanyi. He 
puts forward the argument that there are things 
that we know but cannot tell. This is strikingly true 
for our knowledge of skills. He takes the example 
of swimming. We can say that we know how to 
swim, but this does not mean that we can tell how 
we manage to keep afloat when swimming, or how 
we coordinate the complex pattern of muscular acts 
by which we do our swimming. In the same way, in 
an everyday situation, we can easily recognize a 
familiar face, but we are incapable of identifying 

how we do so. This shows that a simple action 
often reveals a far greater skill than we would have 
believed, and we are generally unable to describe 
the knowledge revealed by our action. The knowl- 
edge that we mobilize in practice is not the result of 
conscious learning: It is implicit knowledge, or tacit 
knowing, that is, related to knowing in action. In a 
similar vein, Donald Schon addresses the knowl- 
edge put into practice by professionals (teachers, 
town planners, managers, etc.) in exercising their 
activities. These different works converge in their 
thinking. They show that the practical knowledge 
mobilized by a subject in a situation is first of great 
value, and next that it is not directly accessible, 
meaning that it is implicit and not conscious. A long 
time before these works were conducted, psycholo- 
gist Jean Piaget also reached a similar type of con- 
clusion, in the 1970s. In effect, he looked at the 
question of the consciousness of subjects while con- 
ducting practical operations. Straightaway, he iden- 
tified the fact that action in a situation is autonomous 
knowledge that remains largely unconscious. We 
can successfully complete an operation that is the 
positive sanction of a certain practice, but not 
understand it. Understanding, which is the literal 
meaning of conceptualization, supposes an effort of 
abstraction to a greater or lesser degree, depending 
on the subjects concerned. 


On this basis, psychologists such as Pierre 
Vermersch have explored the possibilities of articu- 
lating lived experience. From a phenomenological 
psychology point of view, he examines the tacit 
nature of knowing in action. Lived experience is 
not immediately accessible, for it is largely implicit 
in the sense of being prereflective. That is, it has 
not been made an object of consciousness, although 
this is possible. In support of his theory, he uses the 
distinction made by Piaget between reflecting 
activity, the act consisting of becoming conscious 
of lived experience, and meta-reflection, the act 
consisting of analyzing information already 
brought to consciousness. Vermersch constructed 
a device, the explicitation interview, to access this 
source of information on action: that which can be 
brought into consciousness, corresponding to the 
stage of reflecting activity and not the stage of 
reflection on lived experience. 

Coding: Axial Coding 153 

Schon develops another method to access the hid- 
den knowledge underlying professional action: 
"reflection on the reflection in action." In this way, 
he suggests following the process: (a) observation of 
the action, (b) recording of the action, (c) reflection 
on recording of the action, (d) description of the 
action, and (e) reflection on description of the action. 
Jerome Bruner demonstrated that the spontaneous 
narrative structure — a story — is essential for the 
transmission of human experience. This story always 
begins with a description of a usual setting (arena, 
actors, what happens . . . ): It introduces normal 
things. Then, an unexpected event, a peripeteia, hap- 
pens that modifies the course of the story and its 
ending. There is always a moral, but it is more sug- 
gested than formulated. This is a spontaneous way 
to codify and to hand down social practices. 

Critical Summary 

Many devices have been developed, either from 
practical knowledge or science, in response to this 
problem of codification of social practices. 
Vermersch provides the explicitation interview. 
Bruner demonstrates the value of spontaneous nar- 
rative structure. Schon points out the possibilities 
of reflection on the reflection in action. We must 
also note organizational practices in terms of feed- 
back, analysis of work centers, implementation of 
quality standards, and so forth. In scientific terms, 
work psychologists and ergonomists, in the main, 
have built tools for the investigation of individual 
activity, which undeniably provide access to 
extremely valuable information. Progress has also 
been made in terms of investigation of collective 
practices, mainly by anthropologists. But as things 
stand at present, the question of articulation 
between these two perspectives, that is, to study at 
the same time both individual and collective prac- 
tices, remains unanswered. 

Pascal Lievre and Geraldine Rix 

See also Actor-Network Theory; Community of Practice; 
Ethnomethodology; Experience; Knowledge 
Production; Narrative Analysis; Phenomenology; 
Reflexivity; Self-Confrontation Method 

Further Readings 

Bruner, J. (2002). Making stories: Law, literature, life. 
New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 

Foray, D. (2004). The economics of knowledge. 

Cambridge: MIT Press. 
Goody, J. (1977). The domestication of the savage mind. 

Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 
Hansen, M. T., Nohria, N., & Tierney, T. (1999). What's 

your strategy for managing knowledge? Harvard 

Business Review, 77(2), 106-116. 
Nonaka, I., & Takeuchi H. (1995). The knowledge- 
creating company. New York: Oxford University Press. 
Polanyi, M. (1996). The tacit dimension. New York: 

Harper Torchbooks. 
Schon, D. (1996). The reflective practitioner. New York: 

Basic Books. 
Vermersch, P. (1999). Introspection as practice. Journal 

of Consciousness Studies, 6(2-3), 17-42. 

Coding: Axial Coding 

Axial coding is the process of relating categories 
to their subcategories. Anselm Strauss and Juliet 
Corbin used this term in Basics of Qualitative 
Research as one of the data analysis techniques by 
which grounded theory can be performed. The 
essence of axial coding is to identify some central 
characteristic or phenomenon (the axis) around 
which differences in properties or dimensions 
exist. Axial coding is therefore a process of reas- 
sembling or disaggregating data in a way that 
draws attention to the relationships between and 
within categories. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Any exploratory research that is interested in 
developing theory has to deal with the interpreta- 
tion of data in ways that specify the concepts 
of interest, causal relationships, the presence and 
effect of contextual relationships, and outcomes. 
Exploratory research usually relies heavily on 
qualitative research methods because they are par- 
ticularly well suited to the exploration of patterns 
in data that are not guided by a priori expectations 
or constrained by the operationalization of com- 
plex phenomena. Case study research is often used 
in an exploratory way, looking at a single indi- 
vidual, organization, phenomenon, or event with 
the aim of understanding its complexity in as com- 
plete a way as possible. Doing so usually involves 
the collection of many different types of data, all 

154 Coding: Axial Coding 

of which need to be systematically analyzed in a 
way that identifies the specific concepts that are at 
play, and how they relate to each other to produce 
a certain outcome. Axial coding is one technique 
by which this analysis can be performed. 

Strauss and Corbin describe several coding tech- 
niques particularly well suited to grounded theory 
research, that which generates theory derived from 
data in a systematic and rigorous way. At the heart 
of any theory is a set of concepts, the presence of 
which allows for the concepts to be studied in 
ways that generate propositions or hypotheses 
concerning the way they are related to each other. 
"Coding" is the label Strauss and Corbin use to 
describe qualitative data analysis as it pertains 
to the discovery of concepts and their relationship 
to other concepts. "Open coding" describes the 
process by which concepts are identified and their 
properties or dimensions discovered. Concepts are 
therefore the building blocks of theory. 

Coding of this type needs to examine data in a 
conceptual way in order to identify what objects, 
actions, or events are present and are of theoretical 
interest. Often the process of open coding pro- 
duces many concepts that can subsequently be 
grouped into categories based on something they 
have in common in a way that is important to 
what is being studied. Once a category has been 
identified, it becomes easier to develop in terms of 
its properties and to break down further into sub- 
categories based on the particulars (when, where, 
why, and how) that are present in the data. 

"Axial coding" is the process of relating catego- 
ries to their subcategories, the outcomes of open 
coding. The term axial comes from the axis of a 
category, its properties and dimensions. Strauss 
and Corbin describe the basic tasks of axial coding 
as follows: 

1. Identifying the properties of a category and their 
dimensions. This process usually begins during 
open coding, when categories (something significant 
to respondents) and subcategories (answers to 
questions about categories) are first identified. 

2. Identifying the conditions, interactions, and 
consequences associated with a phenomenon. 
These form a paradigm, or perspective taken 
toward data. This allows the researcher to code 
for explanations and to gain understanding of a 
phenomenon's complexity. 

3. Understanding the relationship between a 
category and its subcategories. How these relate 
to each other is the basis for hypotheses or 
propositions because they link concepts together, 
explaining the particular manifestations of a 

4. Searching data for ways in which categories 
might relate to each other. This allows for the 
emergence of novel relationships that may have 
previously gone unnoticed. 


The case of the Westray mine explosion in Nova 
Scotia, Canada, was used to study institutional 
influences on workplace safety. The article "Institu- 
tionalized Mindsets of Invulnerability: Differen- 
tiated Institutional Fields and the Antecedents of 
Organizational Crisis" used the techniques of 
grounded theory to understand how organization 
crisis occurred in a highly regulated industry with 
very predictable (albeit serious) safety risks. This 
study was interested in identifying the antecedents 
of organizational crisis in an organizational con- 
text of heavy regulation and established production 
technology. It therefore started with an outcome 
(an underground mine explosion) and examined its 
institutional antecedents. 

The first major category identified in data 
analysis was institutional influence, established by 
the literature as an important factor in determining 
workplace behaviors. This category was later 
divided into three subcategories based on the dif- 
ferent institutional logics in play, each of which took 
particular forms in the day-to-day work lives of the 
underground miners. During this process of coding 
another category was identified — perceptions of 
risk — that was related to the organizational prac- 
tices and contextual characteristics present in the 
organization and its environment. These two cat- 
egories were shown to be mediated by an attitude 
referred to as a "mindset of invulnerability" that 
explained the relationship between the two catego- 
ries and made sense of an organizational crisis that 
was entirely preventable. 

More specifically, the process of open coding 
identified micro-institutional processes as a major 
category. Subcategories were later created as differ- 
ent institutional logics (i.e., instrumentality, appro- 
priateness, and orthodoxy) were identified in the 

Coding: Open Coding 155 

larger category of institutional influence. For exam- 
ple, a logic of instrumentality was at the root of 
regulative processes that guided individual behav- 
ior in an coercive way. Further specification of this 
subcategory identified three constructs that were 
manifestations of this type of institutional influ- 
ence: (1) the illusion of regulatory protection, 
(2) peer pressure, and (3) intimidation/harassment. 
Axial coding was the process that revealed the 
centrality of institutional logic in this category, as 
well as the relationship between it and the emer- 
gent category labeled perceptions of risk. The 
resulting model showed how organizational crisis 
was due in large part to a mind-set of invulnerabil- 
ity that resulted from a compounding set of insti- 
tutional pressures, none of which on their own 
would likely have resulted in crisis. 

Critical Summary 

The process of data analysis is central to the reli- 
ability and validity of all research. Strauss and 
Corbin use the term coding to refer to data analy- 
sis, the process by which labels and meaning are 
attached to data that are observed. Qualitative 
research is centrally concerned with providing 
compelling arguments concerning what is going on 
and what significance it has for the world around 
us. The process of coding is a careful examination 
of data (e.g., interview transcripts, observations, 
media reports, memos) with the purpose of inter- 
preting them in meaningful ways. Open coding 
that identifies categories and subcategories, com- 
bined with axial coding that identifies the relation- 
ship between and within categories, combine to 
form a rigorous approach to qualitative data 
analysis that allows the possibility of revealing 
new concepts and novel relationships that allow 
for the refinement and development of theory. 

David Wicks 

See also Coding: Open Coding; Grounded Theory; 
Reliability; Validity 

Further Readings 

Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of 
grounded theory. Chicago: Aldine. 

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative 
research: Techniques and procedures for developing 
grounded theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Wicks, D. (2001). Institutionalized mindsets of 

invulnerability: Differentiated institutional fields and 
the antecedents of organizational crisis. Organization 
Studies, 22(4), 659-692. 

Coding: Open Coding 

Open coding is an essential methodological tool 
for qualitative data analysis that was introduced 
in grounded theory research. Open coding refers 
to the initial interpretive process by which raw 
research data are first systematically analyzed and 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss were among the 
first to formally introduce the procedure of open 
coding in their seminal work, The Discovery of 
Grounded Theory. In this study of the behavioral 
patterns of hospital workers and dying patients, 
Glaser and Strauss modeled how intuitive and 
inductive researchers must be personally and 
actively involved in the coding of field data in aid 
of theory development. Open coding is the process 
through which "grounded" researchers initially 
begin the process of questioning, reflecting upon, 
and categorizing the actions, perspectives, and 
words of the actors in their study through their 
raw research data. Open coding is the initial data 
work that builds from the ground up, by identify- 
ing essential concepts and patterns that emerge in 
vivo from an initial, yet rigorous open reading and 
reflection upon raw data. 

In grounded theory research, open coding is one 
of the three types of coding that are used progres- 
sively: open, axial, and selective coding. Open cod- 
ing is the initial intensive interplay of an interpretive 
or interrogatory and often intuitive process between 
researcher and data by which the raw data, includ- 
ing words, phrases, events, or actions, are broken 
down, taken apart, or analyzed for their potential 
or relevance to the identification and conceptual- 
ization of phenomena that emerge from collected 
data. In open coding, concepts, the most basic unit 
of analysis, are identified from distinct events, inci- 
dents, words, or phrases in the data and are given 
conceptual labels or identifiers. Events, actions, 

156 Coding: Open Coding 

and interactions are grouped together to form cat- 
egories and subcategories. Each category repre- 
sents a unit of information with properties that can 
then be examined against the data themselves. 
Then, following this, axial coding is the process of 
relating categories to their subcategories and test- 
ing against the data. Finally, selective coding is a 
means of unifying relevant categories into a "core" 
category that represents the central phenomenon 
of the study. 

Open coding entails a constant process of ques- 
tioning and comparing that serves to limit 
researcher subjectivity. Open coding stimulates 
generative and comparative questions to guide the 
researcher in future coding and interpretation and 
in theory development, and may even guide the 
researcher to return to the field for more data. 
Open coding is in a sense the initial structured 
conversation between the researcher/theorist and 
the data. It has been described as like the first peek 
at the insides of an egg freshly cracked and poured 
into a pan. 


Open coding, in contrast to axial and selective 
coding, is not directed solely toward the whittling 
down of data into a manageable mix of concepts, 
perceptions, patterns, and actions. Rather than 
reducing information, open coding begins to orga- 
nize it into meaningful categories. In some senses it 
could be described as a process of critical transla- 
tion by which the researcher, on a word-by-word 
basis, identifies and organizes raw data into broad 
categories of words, actions, and perceptions. 

In open coding, the most mundane categorical 
identification is completed. For example, open 
coding ensures research subjects are clearly identi- 
fied, and demographic and other relevant personal 
and professional information, such as gender and 
age, occupation, professional relationships, and 
responsibilities of the participants, is applied. 
However, this is not to say that open coding takes 
place only at such a mundane level, since it pro- 
gresses from this very matter-of-fact level of analy- 
sis to entail meaningful theoretical and intuitive 
sensitivity to multiple perspectives and issues of 
gender, sexuality, class, and race and other differ- 
ences and relationships between and among the 
study sample. 

Open coding is the commencement of a long 
process of working the raw data, through constant 
comparison, initial conceptual identification, and 
categorization. As the first and perhaps most 
important reading of the data, during open coding 
the researcher is especially interested in identifying 
and illuminating patterns and concepts but not 
refining or delineating, which is completed during 
later stages of the data interpretation process. 

Open coding could perhaps best be described as 
an intense interplay, or perhaps more accurately as 
an intense and somewhat repetitive argumentative 
conversation between two people who have been 
introduced but are not overly familiar with each 
other, and are focused on constantly comparing 
their own interpretations of their experiences 
for the purpose of guiding future, more detailed 

Critical Summary 

Open coding is the initial conversation between 
researchers and the voices, actions, and events of 
their raw collected data. It requires a high degree 
of researcher intuition and theoretical sensitivity. It 
is by nature a rigorous and painstaking process of 
analyzing or translating, word for word, raw data 
into usable theoretical or conceptual chunks or 
categories. It calls for constant comparison, theo- 
retical questioning, and requestioning of data. It is, 
in short, an intensive process by which data are 
rigorously analyzed for embedded phenomena, 
patterns, concepts, and themes. Open coding is 
often enhanced by data collection from multiple 
but comparable cases or samples. 

Jason Matthew Cameron Price 

See also Coding: Axial Coding; Coding: Selective Coding; 
Cross-Case Synthesis and Analysis; Grounded Theory 

Further Readings 

Chima, J. S. (2005, September). What's the utility of the 
case-study method for social science research? A 
response to critiques from the quantitative/statistical 
perspective. Paper for delivery at the Annual Meetings 
of the American Political Science Association, 
Washington, D.C. Retrieved April 3, 2009, from 
Qualitative Methods Panels APSA 2005: http://www 

Coding: Selective Coding 157 

Corbin, J., & Holt, N. (2004). Grounded theory. In 
B. Somekh & C. Lewin (Eds.), Research methods in 
the social sciences: A guide for students (pp. 49-56). 
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (1990). Grounded theory 
research: Procedures, canons, and evaluative criteria. 
Qualitative Sociology, 13(1), 3-21. 

Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of 
grounded theory. Chicago: Aldine. 

Coding: Selective Coding 

Selective coding refers to the final stage of data 
analysis to be completed after core concepts 
emerging from the coded data categories and sub- 
categories have been identified through open and/ 
or axial coding. During selective coding, previ- 
ously identified discrete concepts and categories 
are further defined, developed, and refined and 
then brought together to tell a larger story. 
Selective coding is the stage in data analysis where 
core concepts are identified, and then abstracted, 
yet empirically grounded theory is generated. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Selective coding, which is also referred to as sub- 
stantive coding, takes place after initial core cate- 
gories and concepts have been identified in the 
data. Selective coding concentrates on theoretical 
development regarding the nature and relation- 
ships of core or essential categories and concepts 
emerging from the data being worked. The results 
of selective coding can range broadly from grounded 
explanations of behavior drawn from core catego- 
ries, to the creation of broad theoretical abstrac- 
tions based on these core categories, which serve as 
the building blocks for grounded theory. Selective 
coding, although often thought of as the final stage 
in data coding, can often lead the conscientious 
researcher back into the raw data for a final search 
for data related to the core codes developed during 
open and axial coding stages. While the effect of 
open and axial coding is the systematic fragmenta- 
tion of the data into core codes and concepts, 
selective coding is a heuristic process of recon- 
struction and reconstitution. It is not uncommon 
to categories and subcategories. 

Although any discussion of the methodology of 
grounded theory must involve a discussion of the 
pathbreaking work of Barney Glaser and Anselm 
Strauss, it is important to note that substantive dif- 
ferences developed over time between these two 
pioneering sociologists, not least of which was 
their individual understanding of selective coding. 
For Strauss, selective coding is a crucial stage in 
theoretical development that calls for highly devel- 
oped theoretical sensitivity on the part of the 
researcher. The process of discovering and abstract- 
ing and articulating theory from data that has been 
coded in a systematic fashion through open and 
axial coding into a number of categories and sub- 
categories requires significant intellectual finesse 
and an eye for nuance. In contrast, Glaser con- 
structs selective coding as an almost automatic 
result of the previous stages of data analysis where 
relationships between data have been repeatedly 
compared and contrasted. For Glaser, the coded 
data are in a sense self-selected through the evolv- 
ing process of data analysis, and the selective cod- 
ing stage is essentially about clearly identifying, 
exploring, and clearly articulating core concepts in 
theoretical terms. Glaser was concerned that 
Strauss's almost scripted approach to the method- 
ology of coding might lead to researchers making 
data fit categories, and therefore, data and catego- 
ries that fit theory, rather than finding categories 
and theories that emerge from data. 


In case study research, selective coding is the cul- 
mination of an intense process of discovery and 
exploration of an institution, event, or individual. 
As the initiating stage for theoretical development, 
selective coding is in essence about articulating 
empirically grounded theoretical statements that 
are designed to explain or understand social 
behavior or social problems. 

Kui-Hee Song explored the issue of resolving 
child abuse problems in Korean immigrant popula- 
tions through a grounded theory case study of an 
American Korean immigrant family. This family 
was working to resolve abuse through clinical inter- 
vention by child protective services. In this highly 
detailed case study the author attempts, through 
grounded theory, to explore the possibility of 
applying theoretical ideas related to postmodernism 

158 Cognitive Biases 

and multiculturalism. Song was interested in under- 
standing the therapeutic process and cross-cultural 
communication involved in resolving child abuse 
concerns across cultural differences. In order to deal 
with the inherent difficulties in coding and inter- 
preting data across language, Song developed codes 
incorporating Korean conceptual understandings. 
To aid in the reliability of her codes, Song employed 
another researcher to code much of her data 

Open coding began with transcripts of inter- 
views with the family at the focus of the case study. 
Some preliminary possible codes or categories were 
identified in advance of the interviews by the 
researcher as she was utilizing a number of data 
sources in addition to participant interviews, includ- 
ing documentary report analysis, respondent letter, 
and participant observation notes. However, the 
core categories regarding the clinical resolution pro- 
cess emerged from taped transcripts of interviews. 
Transcripts were read and reread by Song to refine 
and define the core categories of her research, a 
process normally defined as axial coding. Song then 
engaged in the theoretical generation or selective 
coding of her data, where she selected her core cat- 
egories, explored the inter- and intra-relationships 
of the categories, and began to generate hypotheses 
and theories to bring insight into the complex pro- 
cess of cultural communication and negotiation in 
cross-cultural institutionalized settings. 

Critical Summary 

Selective coding is an integral process in grounded 
theory data analysis and theory development. It is 
a deductive and creative process. It is the point in 
the data analysis process where the researcher 
begins to apply theory to the core categories of the 
collected and open-coded data, and to generate 
theory from the data. It demands both intellectual 
rigor and theoretical sensitivity. Selective coding 
begins after the identification of core categories. It 
is a process of both discovery and illumination, 
which can result in theoretical generation of differ- 
ent levels of abstraction from the data, while still 
being empirically grounded in the data. 

Jason Matthew Cameron Price 

See also Coding: Axial Coding; Coding: Open Coding; 
Grounded Theory 

Further Readings 

Glaser, B. G. (1992). Basics of grounded theory analysis. 

Mill Valley, CA: Sociology Press. 
Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of 

grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. 

New York: Sociology Press. 
Heath, H., & Cowley, S. (2004). Developing a grounded 

theory approach: A comparison of Glaser and Strauss. 

International Journal of Nursing Studies, 41(2), 141-150. 
Song, K.-H. (2004). Beyond multiculturalism in social 

work practice. New York: University Press of 


Cognitive Biases 

Cognitive bias is a general term used to describe a 
tendency to make a systematic error in thinking or 
reasoning. Normative systems such as formal 
logic, probability theory, and choice behavior by 
formal decision theory have been used by psy- 
chologists and economists to evaluate and detect 
cognitive biases in human reasoning. Unless 
actively avoided, cognitive biases can influence the 
manner in which human beings think about plan- 
ning, executing, and interpreting data collected 
for research studies, including case study 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Cognitive biases often occur when people use 
shortcuts in thinking. In the 1960s, Amos Tversky 
and Daniel Kahneman began their pioneering 
research on biases when they discovered that 
experts were overconfident in the replicability of 
results from small samples. These shortcuts in 
thinking, also termed heuristics, work reasonably 
well when people need to make quick decisions. 
However, heuristics can lead to systematic biases 
in thinking, especially in situations calling for sys- 
tematic and logical reasoning. 

Leda Cosmides, Gerd Gigerenzer, and Steven 
Pinker theorize that the ability of human beings to 
make quick decisions has evolutionary value 
because in some situations, especially those deemed 
dangerous and harmful to our survival, quick 
responses are vital. Furthermore, cognitive scien- 
tists such as Jonathan Evans and Steven Sloman 

Cognitive Biases 159 

hypothesize that the ability to make quick deci- 
sions is part of the brain's dual information- 
processing system. One part of the system is 
conscious, slow, and sequential, linked to working 
memory and measured intelligence, capable of 
abstract and hypothetical thinking, able to be con- 
trolled, and effortful; the other part is unconscious, 
rapid, associative, pragmatic, efficient in memory 
resources, independent of general measured intel- 
ligence, and relatively effortless. Heuristics arise 
from this second system and often lead to satisfac- 
tory outcomes in vital situations; however, they 
can also lead to serious errors in thinking that 
should be avoided in situations that call for more 
controlled and effortful thought. 

Cognitive biases can arise in almost all forms of 
thinking and reasoning, including quantitative 
judgment, decision analysis, moral thinking, and 
social dilemmas. While many examples of cogni- 
tive biases exist in the psychological and economic 
literature, common cognitive biases expected to 
arise in case study research include those pertain- 
ing to hypothesis testing, judgments of probability, 
and correlation and contingency. Classic examples 
of cognitive biases in judgments of probability 
include the hindsight bias and biases arising from 
the representativeness heuristic and the availability 
heuristic. In hypothesis testing, commonly illus- 
trated examples of cognitive biases include the 
congruence or confirmation bias and the informa- 
tion bias. Finally, in judgments of correlation and 
contingency, pertinent cognitive biases include the 
attentional bias, and those arising from the effects 
of prior belief leading to illusory correlations. A 
brief definition for each of these biases follows. 

Representativeness Heuristic. Estimating the 
probability that an event A belongs to (or originates 
from) a particular class B by evaluating the degree 
to which A is similar to or typical of B. This 
heuristic can lead to errors of judgment because it 
ignores prior probabilities of classes (i.e., the prior 
probability or base rate of B) and therefore can 
lead people to categorize events incorrectly into 

Availability Heuristic. Estimating the probability 
of event A versus event B by the frequency with 
which A and B can be brought into memory. This 
heuristic can lead to errors of judgment because a 

memory search for instances of A and B may be 
governed by what people find salient about A and 
B and not by a proper sampling of A and B. 

Hindsight Bias. The tendency for people who 
know a particular event A has occurred to 
overestimate the probability with which they 
would have predicted its occurrence before it took 

Congruence or Confirmation Bias. The tendency 
for people to confirm their hypotheses or 
expectations through direct tests (e.g., if you expect 
event A to be found behind door No. 1 and not 
door No. 2, checking door No. 1 exclusively) 
instead of falsifying their hypotheses through 
indirect tests (e.g., if you expect event A to be 
found behind door No. 1 and not door No. 2, 
checking both doors No. 1 and No. 2). 

Information Bias. When deciding among 
different courses of action, the tendency for people 
to seek out information for purposes of curiosity 
that is devoid of value for deciding a course of 

Attentional Bias. The tendency for people to 
ignore evidence or avoid looking for evidence 
against an initial hypothesis, in addition to a failure 
to consider alternative hypotheses. 

Effects of Prior Belief (Illusory Correlation). 
Persistent beliefs or expectations about what 
variables ought to be associated can lead to the 
perception of a systematic correlation between 
those variables even when none is present; persistent 
beliefs can also lead to a failure to detect correlations 
that are actually present. 


The cognitive biases defined in the previous section 
can contaminate all forms of research, including 
case study research. In case study research, an 
iterative analysis of cases is often undertaken to 
identify emergent themes (and explanations) to 
answer a research question. Repeatedly reviewing 
cases to find common themes and explanations for 
events lends itself to potentially eliciting cognitive 
biases. For example, in the process of classifying 

160 Cognitive Biases 

case events or occurrences into categories, research- 
ers could unknowingly invoke the representative- 
ness heuristic by neglecting to consider the prior 
probabilities of the categories being considered. 
Likewise, the availability heuristic could be invoked 
by using categories that have been used in past 
research but that do not apply well to the case 
events under consideration. The hindsight bias 
could also contaminate thinking by distorting the 
perceived likelihood of events in case studies. 
Cross-checking data analyses by having multiple 
cases and methods of classifying or sorting data by 
several investigators can help improve reliability 
and validity arguments. 

Case study research also lends itself to commit- 
ting the congruence or confirmation bias and the 
information bias. Because case study research 
often involves selecting key cases to observe and 
study, investigators need to avoid selecting only 
those cases that will confirm their hypotheses and 
ignoring cases that stand to falsify their hypothe- 
ses. Although some cases may appear understand- 
able to include for analysis because of their match 
or relevance to the research question posed, too 
much focus on a direct test of a hypothesis may 
obscure inclusion of indirect tests; that is, includ- 
ing cases that appear to negate the hypothesis 
being considered. Finally, the information bias can 
be avoided by continuously recognizing the objec- 
tive of the analysis and avoiding the temptation to 
include and/or review cases or case events simply 
out of curiosity. 

The final two biases — attentional bias and illu- 
sory correlation — share similarities with the oth- 
ers described previously. Attentional bias can 
contaminate case study research when a single 
hypothesis is considered and alternative hypothe- 
ses are not. Attentional bias can feed into a con- 
firmation bias when the researcher seeks to 
confirm a single hypothesis by attending to a nar- 
row set of cases or events (data) that essentially 
provides positive evidence for the hypothesis 
under consideration. The final bias can result 
from the effects of prior beliefs. Although prior 
beliefs inform the generation of research questions 
and hypotheses and are therefore needed in con- 
ducting scholarly investigations, they have also 
been shown to influence the interpretation of 
data. For example, prior beliefs can lead investiga- 
tors to believe that a relationship exists between 

two variables where none actually exists — a bias 
labeled illusory correlation. 

Critical Summary 

Cognitive biases, reflecting systematic errors in 
thinking or reasoning, arise from the quick, prag- 
matic, and adaptive nature of one part of our 
information-processing system. Although cogni- 
tive biases may be highly useful in helping us make 
quick decisions in hazardous environmental condi- 
tions, they can lead us astray when making deci- 
sions in situations that require controlled, 
thoughtful, and logical thinking such as in scien- 
tific endeavors. There are a variety of cognitive 
biases that have been identified in the literature, 
and seven were defined and illustrated here. 
Investigators conducting case study research can 
avoid committing these seven cognitive biases by 
generating empirically grounded rationales for the 
categories used to evaluate and classify cases, and 
recognizing the need to seek falsifying evidence for 
"pet" hypotheses. 

Jacqueline P. Leighton 

See also Hypothesis; Informant Bias; Interpreting Results; 
Probabilistic Explanation 

Further Readings 

Baron, J. (2000). Thinking and deciding (3rd ed.). 

Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 
Cosmides, L. (1989). The logic of social exchange: Has 

natural selection shaped how humans reason? 

Cognition, 31, 187-276. 
Evans, J. St. B. T. (2007). Hypothetical thinking: Dual 

processes in reasoning and judgment. New York: 

Psychology Press. 
Gigerenzer, G., & Todd, P. M. (1999). Simple heuristics 

that make us smart. New York: Oxford University Press. 
Kahneman, D., & Frederick, S. (2005). A model of 

heuristic judgment. In K. J. Holyoak & R. G. 

Morrison (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of 

thinking and reasoning (pp. 267-293). Cambridge, 

UK: Cambridge University Press. 
Pinker, S. (1997). How the mind works. New York: W. 

W. Norton. 
Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgment under 

uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. Science, 185, 


Cognitive Mapping 161 

Cognitive Mapping 

One way we provide meaning to our world is 
through the development of mental representa- 
tions. It is through our ability to code, store, 
recall, and decode information about the locations 
and attributes of objects in our world that we are 
able to discriminate and classify phenomena. By 
developing cognitive maps, it is possible to main- 
tain and retrieve visuals, space, and movement; to 
manage phenomena; and to illustrate relation- 
ships and connections between these entities. 
Mapping these mental representations allows the 
brain to guide behaviors and thought processes. 
How this is achieved is discussed by cognitive 
researchers, and the application of cognitive maps 
is evident in the qualitative research and educa- 
tional environments. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

The origin of cognitive mapping is derived from 
the field of cognition examining the internal men- 
tal models constructed by individuals. First intro- 
duced in 1945 by John von Neumann, cognitive 
mapping was used to compare computers and the 
human brain. The electronic circuits of a computer 
were described as analogous to a neuron firing in 
the brain, while computer programs were a meta- 
phor for the way in which information was 
detected, stored, and recalled by the brain. This 
comparison was used by Edward Tolman to 
explain how mice repeatedly navigated their way 
through mazes. By developing a "map" of sensory 
information using smell and movement, mice were 
able to use selective recall to navigate through 
mazes. These behaviors were fine-tuned over 
repeated iterations. 

During the 1980s, contemporary cognitive psy- 
chologists revisited this behavioral approach, argu- 
ing that human behavior is purposeful and 
goal-directed with intended expectancies to meet 
directed activities. Albert Bandura, for example, 
proposed that humans used activities to guide 
themselves and others through the behavioral, cog- 
nitive, and social processes of daily life. He illus- 
trated this by arguing that a role of parents is to 
guide their children over time by articulating infor- 
mation to create boundaries that children can use 

to organize and interpret their world. The success 
or failure of this cognitive mapping is judged by 
the outcome of a child's behavior. The parents 
observe, reward, and/or generate new feedback 
depending on this outcome. 

Cognitive mapping is well suited as a tool in 
qualitative research studies. It is particularly useful 
in case study research as it focuses on purposeful 
behavior in response to a phenomenon. To explore 
how individuals relate and respond to a given phe- 
nomenon, a "map" is created based upon assump- 
tions, guidelines, and practices. By establishing 
boundaries through a series of geographic, temporal, 
organizational, institutional, or other defining crite- 
ria, a "map" is created that explains how a given 
phenomenon is realized in a specific context. Research 
studies are based on the design of structures that 
gather and analyze information by identifying, 
observing, and articulating the phenomenon in ques- 
tion. Developing cognitive mapping procedures 
enables researchers to see the phenomenon and to 
propose a conceivable research framework that can 
then produce problem-solving opportunities. 


Cognitive mapping is used by David Ausubel in the 
development of advanced organizers. He uses this 
method as a tool to provide a cognitive instruc- 
tional strategy that promotes learning and reten- 
tion of new information by students. By displaying 
phrases of words, students are exposed to a way of 
thinking about a subject prior to investigating it in 
detail. Richard Mayer notes this classification sys- 
tem enables learners to cognitively map or orga- 
nize new information onto existing mental 
frameworks of categories or schemata. Existing 
knowledge is housed in expository organizers, 
while schemata that build connections between 
existing knowledge and new information are 
known as comparative organizers. Together, these 
cognitive maps enable the learner to accept, store, 
retrieve, and utilize existing with new information, 
to transfer knowledge, and to follow the process of 
problem-solving behavior and strategies. 

Ausubel indicates this process is frequently used 
in schools for note-taking, learning new vocabu- 
lary, motivating students to read, and learning at 
higher levels of abstraction, generality, and inclu- 
siveness. In each case, the development of cognitive 

162 Cognitive Mapping 

maps through advance organizers provides meth- 
ods that can assist students to learn, to retrieve 
information previously presented and at the same 
time, teach and add new concepts. Organizers are 
therefore cognitive maps designed to conduct and 
evaluate learning while providing meaningful learn- 
ing for students. 

Reuven Feuerstein applies the concept of cogni- 
tive mapping in a different way by exploring the 
mediated learning experience between parent and 
child. The parent selects; organizes facts, words, or 
instructions; and then frames, filters, and organizes 
these for the child. The youngster analyzes and cat- 
egorizes this information with a cognitive map com- 
posed of at least seven parameters including content, 
operations, modality (i.e., figurative, numerical, or 
verbal), phrase, (i.e., input, elaboration, output), 
complexity, abstraction, and efficiency. The aim is to 
establish this new information into a cognitive map 
or a framework that the child has developed, under- 
stands, and can utilize. Young children are very 
quick to process information once they have devel- 
oped early personal maps to incorporate new infor- 
mation. In fact, parents are often surprised at the 
speed at which young children can use these internal 
maps in unexpected or surprising situations. 

Building on the work identified by others, Clive 
Lawless describes a distinctive feature of cognitive 
mapping within the education field. He notes that 
mapping is commonly used to emphasize relation- 
ships between entities, offering ways to describe 
and visualize concepts. In this case, the psycho- 
logical process of cognitive mapping is displayed 
by the use of concept maps. These physical maps 
represent a structured process, focusing on a topic 
or construct of interest involving one or more phe- 
nomena that enable participants to visually present 
concepts and ideas. 

Learning is thus represented as the accommoda- 
tion and assimilation of new ideas incorporated 
into existing cognitive structures. By drawing 
nodes to represent concepts and lines to indicate 
relationships, these hierarchical, spider, and other 
forms of maps can be visually represented. These 
diagrams are idiosyncratic, offering visual sche- 
mata of meaning that vary with knowledge acqui- 
sition, time, and situation. A primary advantage of 
this visual representation is that viewers are able to 
"see" the relationships and conceptual approaches 
more clearly. 

The applicability of these diagrams can be par- 
ticularly useful for students learning about a disci- 
pline. For example, Josephine D. Wallace and Joel J. 
Mintzes studied how science methods were learned 
by student teachers. The cognitive processing steps 
used in science were displayed by subjects who 
presented their understanding using a concept 
map. Compared to a control group, the teachers 
showed significant development in their under- 
standing of concepts and propositions, and showed 
an increased amount of knowledge retained and 
the way in which this knowledge was organized by 
these teachers. Joseph Novak and Bob Gowin note 
that concept maps are conjecture and are visual 
tools that are limited to reflecting a means rather 
than initiating the "act" of learning. 

Other visual representations are discussed in the 
literature. Mind maps described by Tony Buzan 
are diagrams representing words, ideas, tasks, or 
other items linked to a central or key concept. 
These may be helpful to generalize, visualize, or 
structure information or as an aid in the study, 
organization, problem solving, decision making, 
or writing related to research work. Novak and 
Gowin offer many practical applications of con- 
cept mapping as an extension to the cognitive 
mapping process. 

Critical Summary 

Cognitive mapping is difficult to distinguish today 
because it is an internal cognitive process. It is 
much easier to demonstrate the cognitive process 
through the myriad supporting devices, including 
concept maps, mind maps, spiderwebs, concept 
sorting, fuzzy cognitive mapping, semantic maps, 
networking, idea maps, or word webbing maps. 
The value of cognitive processing is the ability to 
represent the schematic that organizes concepts, 
knowledge, and the relationships between phe- 
nomena. The value of this tool is that it reduces 
cognitive overload, promotes internal cognitive 
streamlining, and provides enhanced recall and 
learning of information. All can be very helpful in 
research and educational settings. The challenge of 
cognitive mapping is that is an internal, hidden 
process that is difficult to prove without the pres- 
ence of visual representations. 

Jo-Anne H. Willment 

Collective Case Study 163 

See also Action-Based Data Collection; Case Study 
Research in Education; Concept Mapping; Diaries 
and Journals; Self-Confrontation Method 

Further Readings 

Ausubel, D. P. (1960). The use of advance organizers in 

the learning and retention of meaningful verbal 

material. Journal of Educational Psychology, 51, 

Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and 

action. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. 
Buzan, T. (2000). The mind map book. New York: 

Novak, J. D., & Gowin, D. B. (1984). Learning how to 

learn. Cambridge, UK, & New York: Cambridge 

University Press. 
Wallace, J. D., & Mintzes, J. J. (1990). The concept map 

as a research tool: Exploring conceptual change in 

biology. Journal of Research in Science Technology, 

27(10), 1033-1052. 

Collective Case Study 

Collective case study involves more than one case, 
which may or may not be physically colocated 
with other cases. A collective case study may be 
conducted at one site (e.g., a school, hospital, or 
university) by examining a number of different 
departments or other units at that one site. Each 
unit is studied as part of a collection, regardless of 
whether the units themselves are located at single 
or multiple sites. The term collective case study is 
sometimes referred to as multi-site case study or 
multi-site study. There seems to be little difference 
in the definition of these terms. Although 21st- 
century scholars may struggle to find an appropri- 
ate label for this type of research, the method itself 
is not new. 


Collective case studies first emerged in the 1960s and 
1970s as a way to gather qualitative data that went 
beyond a single case study. Prior to this time, single 
case studies were often conducted by university 
researchers. Collective case studies were often done 
as part of larger projects, funded by governments or 

policy research institutes. They typically focused on 
quantitative research, were at least 2 years in dura- 
tion, and were expensive to conduct. 

While large-scale policy research may be a mod- 
ern use of collective case study, the method itself 
appears to have historical roots in 19th-century 
European sociological research. One documented 
case of what we would call collective case study 
was conducted by Frederic LePlay (1806-1882), a 
French sociologist who studied cases of working- 
class families to better understand how each family 
unit functioned on its own, and from there drew 
conclusions about how families function within 
society. LePlay's study was called a monograph of 
families. Although the term monograph is rarely 
used to talk about case studies today, the research 
methods are essentially the same. 

Regardless of the name, the common theme 
among collective case studies is that they examine 
the same research question(s) within a number of 
contexts, using identical methods of data collec- 
tion and analysis. The researcher wants to under- 
stand the individual site and develop a comparison 
of all the sites. The individual units of study, then, 
or cases, are examined in situ and can be consid- 
ered as a collective whole for the analysis phase. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

This research design is used to undertake a close 
study of a number of cases that are linked together, 
either through a common issue or other similari- 
ties. The important point is that the cases must 
share some link or there is no point in them being 
studied as a collective. 

In a collective case study, a common set of 
research questions is developed to guide the study 
of each individual case. Each case is treated as its 
own individual entity, and researchers take an 
in-depth approach to each one. A collective case 
study approach is especially useful in social set- 
tings such as schools, where the distinctions 
between the context and the events being observed 
are sometimes blurred. 

It is important to note that case studies are con- 
ceptualized within the qualitative paradigm but 
may include both quantitative and qualitative 
data. The context in which the research is con- 
ducted is considered important and is usually dis- 
cussed in the results of the research. Robert Yin 

164 Collective Case Study 

notes that what makes case study different from a 
quantitative or experimental study is that in case 
study the phenomenon under study is examined 
within the context, and not artificially taken out- 
side of the context in which it exists and observed 
as though it were devoid of context. 

One purpose of the large-scale policy projects of 
the 1960s and 1970s was that they provided the 
opportunity to integrate quantitative and qualita- 
tive data, and allowed for cross-case comparisons. 
This can make the overall research project quite 
extensive in scope, and a potentially expensive 

The notion of cross-case comparisons is impor- 
tant for collective case study because what differ- 
entiates this from traditional single case study is 
that the researcher is interested in, and preoccu- 
pied by, commonalities among the cases. The cases 
are linked and bound by their common character- 
istics, which are what the researcher is most inter- 
ested in exploring and understanding. Robert 
Stake refers to this grouping as a quintain. The 
term quintain offers a concise way to refer to the 
data that are most pertinent to this type of research. 
Rather than focusing on single events or contexts, 
in collective case study the researcher is seeking a 
better understanding of the quintain or collection 
of categorically bounded cases. 

It is worth underscoring that even though the 
quintain or collection is the main focus of the 
research, each case is still studied in an in-depth 
manner. The careful and thorough examination of 
each individual case within the quintain is essen- 
tial, and the desire and need to understand each 
individual case deeply is not sacrificed for the sake 
of gathering surface data quickly. This means that 
a collective case study requires a thorough and 
methodical approach, not to mention significant 
resources in terms of the researcher's time and 
funding. This brings us to some of the limitations 
of this type of work. 


Collective case studies, by definition, examine at 
least three distinct cases. Though there is no limit 
to the number of cases that could potentially be 
studied, the scope of the study is often limited by 
both the timeline of the project and the budget. 
Although a collection may include all possible 

cases, it is more likely that it will include a selec- 
tion of cases. 

Though some argue that because case studies 
are bounded by time and space, and the very 
nature of case study involves researching in a cur- 
rent context, it is more likely that budget, rather 
than space, would limit a collective case study. 
Cases could be investigated in a variety of locales, 
provided properly trained researchers could be 
found. Securing funding for large-scale collective 
case research in a global context could be a sig- 
nificant challenge or limitation. 

In addition to budgeting financial resources, a 
collective case study must also budget its time care- 
fully. The length of time spent at any given site 
should be more or less equal to the amount of time 
spent at other sites. If significantly more time is spent 
at one site, it may limit the amount of time available 
to study other sites, which creates the potential to 
compromise the quality of the data collected. 

Due to the scope of the research, it is not always 
possible for one person alone to collect all the data 
required for the study. Different researchers may 
be required at different sites, supervised by one 
principal investigator. In order to ensure validity, it 
is essential that all researchers are briefed and 
trained in similar ways. This helps to ensure as 
much control as possible not only of the data col- 
lected but also of the ways in which they are col- 
lected, a process that helps ensure validity for 
comparative purposes. These are important limita- 
tions to acknowledge in a collective case study 
project. The richness of the data collected and the 
potential for deeply understanding a phenomenon 
in its context are the benefits of the results of 
research that involves complex methodology. 


To conduct a collective case study, the researcher 
must first identify the research question(s) to be 
explored. Consideration of those questions then 
provides an appreciation of the type of research 
methodology required. If it is apparent that the 
study poses questions that may be studied effec- 
tively in more than three subsets of a common 
environment, then the next phase of the research 
requires the identification of the quintain. 

For example, a researcher exploring the ways in 
which teachers hinder or facilitate the academic 



success of minority culture children may be conducted 
in several classrooms (the sites) that are categorically 
bound together (the school). To conduct the study in 
such a large number of sites requires a team of 
researchers, each of whom must be trained to ask the 
same major and probing research questions, observe 
and record the same observations in the same way, 
administer the same survey questionnaires, and collect 
the same examples of written policy documentation. 
Cross-site comparison occurs by the research 
team taking these individual data sets and combin- 
ing them for quintain analysis. The data are inte- 
grated and analyzed as a whole rather than as 
separate sets. The results are presented as a collec- 
tive case study. 

Critical Summary 

Collective case studies examine at least three cases 
in any given study. Though some studies involve 
dozens of cases, the scope of the study is often 
dictated both by the type of data desired and the 
timeline and budget for the project. Collective case 
studies are typically long-term projects of at least a 
year and may often be expensive to conduct, due 
to the number of cases involved and the number of 
researchers who must be trained. Such studies deal 
with present-day issues and data, and use living 
subjects to collect data, often through observation, 
interviews, questionnaires, or other methods. They 
may collect qualitative or quantitative evidence, or 
a combination of these. The main reason for con- 
ducting a collective case study is to explore cross- 
case comparisons and draw generalizations from 
the entire collection to understand the phenome- 
non deeply from a variety of perspectives. 

/. Tim Goddard 

See also Case Study and Theoretical Science; Case Study 
Protocol; Case Study Research in Education; 
Comparative Case Study; Multi-Site Case Study 

Further Readings 

Hamel, J., Dufour, S., & Fortin, D. (1993). Case study 
methods. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. 

Hancock, D. R., & Algozzine, B. (2006). Doing case 
study research: A practical guide for beginning 
researchers. New York: Teachers College Press. 

Herriott, R. E., & Firestone, W. A. (1983). Multisite 
qualitative policy research: Optimizing description and 
generalizability. Educational Researcher, 12(2), 14-19. 

Minnick, A., Kleinpell, R. M., Micek, W., & Dudley, D. 
(1996). The management of a multisite study. Journal 
of Professional Nursing, 12(1), 7-15. 

Stake, R. E. (2005). Qualitative case studies. In 
N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The Sage 
handbook of qualitative research (3rd ed., pp. 443- 
466). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Stake, R. E. (2006). Multiple case study analysis. New 
York: Guilford. 

Yin, R. K. (1981). The case study crisis: Some answers. 
Administrative Science Quarterly, 26(1), 58-65. 


Colonialism is an influential interdisciplinary con- 
cept with a long history. It has figured prominently 
as an analytical framework in the extensive litera- 
ture in many fields of study, including history, 
sociology, anthropology, political science, and 
international relations. The term colonialism 
derives from the Greek word for colony. Originally, 
a colony referred to the permanent settlement of a 
place by a group of people who migrated there 
from their homeland. During the late 19th cen- 
tury, the word began to be used to refer to all 
distant territories subject to the direct rule of a 
foreign, usually European, state. It is this meaning 
that is most commonly used today. Colonialism is 
the political rule or control of peoples and territo- 
ries by other states, whether or not this is accom- 
panied by permanent settlement. When there is 
significant permanent settlement, such colonies 
are referred to as settler colonies. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Colonial rule is usually long distance; it involves 
the imposition of political control by one country 
over another separate territory. Colonialism is 
closely related to the word imperialism, which 
describes the domination by one people or state (or 
a group of them) over others in a manner advanta- 
geous to the former and usually at the expense 
of the latter. But the two are to be distinguished. 
Colonialism is only one form imperialism might 



take. Imperialism can take various forms of indi- 
rect control or domination without colonies. The 
concept of imperialism also implies international 
politics where great powers exert control over 
weaker states and/or manipulate colonies as part 
of international power struggles. 

Empire-building through colonial expansion 
has a long history, dating back to ancient times; an 
example is the Roman Empire. Before the 16th 
century, the main type of empire was a land-based 
empire that grew through the acquisition of terri- 
tories by expansion over land. This kind of empire 
was created by various people in different parts of 
the world. Seaborne colonial empires, by contrast, 
are more recent. They emerged in the 16th century 
and lasted until the mid-20th century. They are 
created through the acquisition of colonies over- 
seas, and they span the oceans. 

Most of the overseas empires of the past 500 
years were European. A number of writers argue 
that European colonialism was different from the 
creation of empires in earlier times in terms of 
motives, main agents, and outcomes. It was con- 
nected to the rise of capitalism, which originated in 
Europe. Some scholars also distinguish different 
stages of European colonialism and relate these 
stages to the development of capitalism. The main 
distinction made is between the last great wave of 
colonial expansion in the late 1 9th century and the 
colonialism of the previous two centuries. 

The colonialism of the late 19th century was the 
child of industrial capitalism and intensified com- 
petition between rival industrialized capitalist 
states. It differed from its precursors in significant 
ways, including the type and volume of overseas 
investment, new markets for industrial goods, the 
kinds of raw materials and infrastructure demanded 
by industrializing European economies, and the 
increased intervention of states in their national 
economies and its impact on the form of colonial 
rule. The relationship between colonialism and 
capitalism has been the subject of voluminous 
research. Some scholars dispute the distinctiveness 
of the colonialism of the late 1 9th century, arguing 
that it was not qualitatively different from the 
colonialism of previous eras. 

The period from the end of the Second World 
War to the late 1960s saw the rapid decolonization 
of the overseas European empires. Many colonized 
territories in Asia and Africa gained their political 

independence. However, they were left with the lega- 
cies of colonialism that made it very difficult to create 
stable political systems and self-sustaining economies. 
Colonialism was not only political and economic but 
also cultural. It was supported by, and propagated, 
ideologies of the racial and cultural superiority of the 
colonizer. Colonialism transformed ideas, images, 
and representations in both colonized and colonizing 
societies, although the extent and significance of this 
transformation has been disputed. 


Research of the European colonies flourished in 
the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Much of 
this research was commissioned by the colonial 
administrations. The objective was to assist colo- 
nial policy. Academics also conducted various 
studies of colonial societies. Case study was one of 
the major research methods used. An interesting 
example is the University of London anthropolo- 
gist Phyllis M. Kaberry's Women of the Grassfields: 
A Study of the Economic Position of Women in 
Bamenda, British Cameroons. This 1952 study 
appeared in the British Colonial Office's Colonial 
Research Publication series. 

Scholarly interest in colonialism waned in the 
period from the 1950s to the 1970s as many for- 
mer colonies became independent. In the first stage 
following decolonization, the focus of intellectual 
attention shifted to the modernization of the new 
states. Colonialism was no longer an attractive 
subject. In the second stage, scholars started to pay 
more attention to the persistent economic and 
technological dependence of the former colonies 
on Western industrialized countries despite their 
political independence. Thus neocolonialism and 
dependency became a flourishing field of study 
during the 1960s and 1970s. The underlying ques- 
tion concerned the inability of the former colonies 
to achieve development and gain their economic 
independence. According to studies of neocolonial 
relations and dependency situations, the roots of 
underdevelopment in Latin America, Africa, and 
Asia are found in the earlier European colonial 
domination and exploitation of these regions. 

Extensive research has been done on the eco- 
nomic effects of European colonialism for the col- 
onized, and some is based on the case study 
method. One such case study is Rhoda Howard's 



Colonialism and Underdevelopment in Ghana, 
published in 1978. Many studies show that colo- 
nial rule transformed local economies into sources 
of cheap raw materials and labor to feed European 
industries. In cases where precolonial economies 
were ripe for an industrial take-off, as in India, the 
colonial system destroyed local industries. The 
result was the underdevelopment of colonized 
countries. The colonized countries may have been 
undeveloped before their colonization, but they 
became underdeveloped as a result of their colo- 
nial exploitation. Not all scholars agree with these 
negative assessments; they instead highlight the 
positive economic contributions of colonial rule. 
They point out that the colonized countries owed 
their modern infrastructure to colonial administra- 
tions. Colonial rule encouraged urbanization and 
put in place modern education and legal systems. 

The term neocolonialism first came into use in 
the 1950s to describe the continuation of the colo- 
nial domination of former colonies without direct 
political rule. The Third All-African People's 
Conference of 1961 produced an influential list of 
neocolonial features, including the following: 
installation of client regimes; inheritance of the 
same administrative units created by the former 
colonial powers; economic and financial depen- 
dence after political independence; and the use of 
economic aid and military grants as a substitute 
for direct colonial rule. Neocolonialism is also 
used to describe the influence of transnational cor- 
porations and international financial institutions 
in the politics and economics of the less developed 
countries. In his 1975 book Underdevelopment in 
Kenya: The Political Economy ofNeo-Colonialism, 
Colin Leys offers a comprehensive case study of 
the mechanisms of neocolonial domination in 
postindependence Kenya. 

The term neocolonialism was mostly abandoned 
in the 1980s, partly because of its polemical use in 
Cold War politics. However, it can still provide us 
with a useful explanatory framework for those 
cases where a foreign power exercises significant 
control over a less powerful state in a manner that 
is functionally similar to the system of colonialism 
but without formal colonial administration. 

A group of Marxist-influenced scholars formu- 
lated dependency theory during the 1960s and 
1970s, the object of which was to explain the 
underdevelopment of the global South and the gap 

between rich and poor countries. Dependency 
theory encompasses the notion of neocolonialism, 
but it emphasizes the structure of the world capi- 
talist economy, which is characterized by a divide 
between the periphery and the core. The founding 
dependency theorists include Fernando Henrique 
Cardaso, Enzo Faletto, and Andre Gunder Frank. 
Their main concern was to understand why Latin 
America remained underdeveloped vis-a-vis the 
advanced capitalist countries despite its political 
decolonization long time ago. Dependency theory 
was later applied to Asia and Africa as well. Some 
dependency analysts conducted case studies of 
underdeveloped countries or regions. A seminal 
case study of Africa from the perspective of depen- 
dency theory is Walter Rodney's How Europe 
Underdeveloped Africa, published in 1972. 

Dependency theory argues that the underdevel- 
opment of periphery countries is due to their 
involvement with the capitalist countries in the core. 
Dependency is described by asymmetrical links 
between countries. But it is not merely a relationship 
of dependence between countries. It connotes the 
extent to which the economic and political dynam- 
ics in the periphery are conditioned by the world 
capitalist economy dominated by the core countries. 
Dependency often involves collaboration of the 
periphery elites with the ruling elites and transna- 
tional corporations of the core. Such collaboration 
might benefit the elites in the periphery; but it also 
reinforces the periphery's dependency. Dependency 
theory was subjected to a barrage of criticism. It was 
accused of attaching too much importance to inter- 
national factors and not enough attention to domes- 
tic structures in underdeveloped countries. It was 
also criticized for focusing too much on capitalism 
and not enough on unequal power among states in 
explaining dependency. It could not explain the suc- 
cessful development of several East Asian countries 
in recent decades. Nonetheless, the questions raised 
by dependency theory remain relevant for many 
postcolonial states. 

Postcolonialism emerged as an influential per- 
spective in the humanities and social sciences over 
the past couple of decades. The prefix post indi- 
cates postcolonialism's reliance on postpositivist 
approaches to knowledge rather than the end of 
colonial practices. Postcolonial scholars look at 
how discursive constructions shape our under- 
standings of the world. Their starting point is the 


Communicative Action 

global hierarchies of control. Most postcolonial 
studies focus on the persistence of colonial forms 
of power in the contemporary world. They empha- 
size the intersectionality of race, gender, class, and 
colonial power. The key thesis is that colonial 
forms of domination rely on the social production 
of racial, gender, and class differences. While 
examining the continuity of colonial forms of 
power, postcolonial scholars are also interested in 
diverse forms of resistance by subaltern peoples to 
colonial domination. 

Critical Summary 

Many decades after the end of colonial empires, 
there is a major revival of scholarly interest in 
colonialism. This growing stream of research 
crosses the disciplinary boundaries of anthropol- 
ogy, history, international relations, and literature. 
The past two decades have seen numerous publica- 
tions in colonial studies, which examine various 
aspects of the colonial world. Topics range from 
indigenous-European settler encounters to the rep- 
resentations of women in colonial literature. This 
resurgence of scholarship on colonial studies is 
mainly as a result of the influence of new intellec- 
tual approaches that question the earlier, mostly 
Eurocentric studies of the colonial world. The 
recent body of research calls into question the nar- 
ratives that represent the colonized societies as 
static and backward. However, like postcolonial 
studies, which are concerned with the legacies of 
colonialism as well as the different forms of con- 
testing (neo)colonial domination, the recent schol- 
arship on colonial studies mostly takes a cultural 
perspective and focuses on the cultural aspects of 
colonial situations. What is usually neglected is 
colonialism as a system of economic exploitation 
and political control. 

Nilgun Onder 

See also Class Analysis; Imperialism; Native Points of 
View; Othering; Postcolonialism; Power 

Further Readings 

Cooper, F. (2005). Colonialism in question: Theory, 
knowledge, history. Berkeley & Los Angeles: 
University of California Press. 

Fieldhouse, D. K. (1981). Colonialism 1870-1945: An 
introduction. New York: St. Martin's Press. 

Osterhammel, J. (1997). Colonialism: A theoretical 
overview. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener. 

Page, M. E., & Sonnenburg, P. M. (2003). Colonialism: 
An international, social, cultural, and political 
encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. 

Palma, G. (1978). Dependency: A formal theory of 
development or a methodology for the analysis of 
concrete situations of underdevelopment. World 
Development, 881-894. 

Rhodes, R. I. (1970). Imperialism and underdevelopment: 
A reader. New York: Monthly Review Press. 

Young, R. (2001). Postcolonialism: An historical 
introduction. Oxford, UK: Blackwell. 

Communicative Action 

Communicative action, the key to Jiirgen 
Habermas's work, refers to the interaction of at 
least two people who seek to reach an understand- 
ing about something so that they can coordinate 
their interpretation of a situation and their plans of 
action by way of mutual agreement. Language is 
presupposed as the medium through which speak- 
ers and hearers, situated in the prior context of 
their own lifeworld(s), can refer within the com- 
municative relation to the objective, social, and 
subjective worlds and in the process raise validity 
claims correlative to these world relations. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

The subject-object relation of the philosophy of 
consciousness (from Descartes through Kant and 
Hegel to Smith and Marx), according to Habermas, 
is now exhausted; hence his "linguistic turn" away 
from individual action to communicative action 
and a focus on the communicative relation between 
people as the core building block for philosophi- 
cal, social theoretical, and empirical analysis. 

It is useful initially to distinguish between 
The Theory of Communicative Action, which is 
Habermas's mature exposition of his critical the- 
ory of society and late modernity, and communica- 
tive action itself, which is the point of departure 
for this theory. The two volumes run to more than 
1,200 pages and the reader is referred to Thomas 

Communicative Action 


McCarthy's superb translator's introduction to the 
1984 edition for probably the clearest synopsis of 
the sheer breadth and depth of this major 20th- 
century work. 

At a macrolevel, this theory presents a two-level 
conceptualization of society that (a) integrates 
both lifeworld and system approaches; (b) maps a 
philosophical and social theoretical way out of 
the aporias and limits within the individualistic 
subject-object relation by providing a ground- 
breaking conceptualization of communicative 
rationality (as distinct from individual means-end, 
instrumental, or strategic conceptions of rational- 
ity), that draws on "language-in-use" and speech 
act theory; and finally, in genuine Frankfurt School 
tradition, (c) provides a sophisticated means of 
addressing the pathologies of late modernity in 
suggesting that the original emancipatory intent of 
the Enlightenment project is not exhausted but 
simply unfinished and that this theory identifies 
the pathways for substantive analysis, explana- 
tion, and human intervention to ameliorate or 
redress such pathologies, thus leading to a more 
critical redirection of this project. 

The first and third points above are briefly 
addressed here, simply to note the macrolevel of 
analysis before moving more deeply into discuss- 
ing the procedural dynamics of communicative 
action. The financial crisis, as it unfolded during 
September 2008, may be viewed through the 
macro lens of the theory of communicative action 
as it relates to the lifeworld and the steering sys- 
tems of money and power. In very simple terms, 
and from a political economy and "critical man- 
agement studies" perspective, a systemic failure 
was allowed within the banking system and an alli- 
ance quickly formed between the elites of both the 
money and the power systems on how to save 
extant economic structures from further collapse. 
Costs of the various "bailouts" of the money sys- 
tem, facilitated by the governmental agents of the 
administrative power system, were largely bur- 
dened on future citizen taxpayers with conse- 
quences for their working and private lives in their 
own particular lifeworlds. These citizens did not 
cause the pathology, yet private system losses and 
risks from the mortgage-based financial system 
were socialized at the expense of the general public 
and taxpayers. Many critical research questions 
may be addressed here by drawing on the entire 

theoretical architectonic of the theory of commu- 
nicative action at both macro- and microlevels of 
analysis and from both participant and observer 
methodological perspectives. 

Communicative action is central to the healthy 
functioning of human lifeworlds: Under the func- 
tional aspect of reaching understanding, it serves 
to transmit and renew cultural knowledge; under 
the aspect of coordinating action, it serves social 
integration and the establishment of group solidar- 
ity; and under the aspect of socialization, it serves 
the formation of personal identities. At this micro- 
level of analysis, communicative action is a two- 
way dynamic process with three clearly identifiable 
validity claims related to the objective, social, and 
subjective worlds. When two or more people com- 
municate with each other using face-to-face speech 
acts, body language, electronically mediated, or 
other means of communication, each utterance 
or speech act that One makes can be implicitly or 
explicitly accepted or challenged by Other on a 
simple "Yes" or "No" basis. One is seen as mak- 
ing a claim to validity with each utterance, and 
Other can either accept or reject this claim. 

Assuming the general claim to comprehensibil- 
ity, the corresponding validity claims of proposi- 
tional truth/efficacy related to the objective world, 
normative rightness related to the social world, 
and sincerity/authenticity related to the subjective 
world are available. All speech acts, however 
implicitly, make these three claims, although one 
may be emphasized more than the other two in 
any particular situation. Claims in this instance are 
not settled by recourse to hierarchical authority or 
power, which may very often be the case in steer- 
ing system settings, but by providing reasons for or 
against in the mutual give-and-take of this rational 
argumentative discourse. This procedural structure 
can be shown to be universally valid in a specific 
or particular sense, thus satisfying social scientific 
requirements for "objectivity" in a postfounda- 
tionalist manner. One must stress that only the 
procedural aspects of the communicative relation 
are deemed to be universal; communicative actions 
are always contextual. 


Communicative action is grounded in language, 
speech acts, and argumentation; hence it is open to 


Communicative Action 

empirical investigation. It has generated much 
theoretical debate in the fields of morality, ethics, 
religion, justice, democracy, globalization, cosmo- 
politanism, political economy, organization and 
management theory, communications, politics, 
and law. Empirical work in some fields is reason- 
ably developed and in others it remains in its 
infancy, but the range of possible applications in a 
globalized and more cosmopolitan world is vast. 

The problems that caused the September 2008 
financial crisis noted above must have emerged, if 
in part, in the boardrooms of the financial organi- 
zations concerned. Within the field of corporate 
governance there is much that we still do not know 
about what really goes on within such board- 
rooms, mainly due to understandable difficulties 
with gaining entry for research purposes and issues 
of confidentiality. The external observer, however, 
has no access to the meanings inherent in the vari- 
ous talk-based actions within such boardrooms; to 
access meaning one must get into the communica- 
tive actions somehow. 

In her "talk-based" ethnographic case study of 
a board of directors and senior management team 
"in action" in a manufacturing company, Dalvir 
Samra-Fredericks provides an exemplar of how 
communicative action can theoretically inform in 
terms of its interpretive framework, guide a rigor- 
ous and systematic methodology, and lead to sub- 
stantive research findings in a complex and difficult 
research area. Routine, daylong monthly board 
meetings were attended for over a year, and field 
work included observations, interviews, work- 
shadowing, and audio- and video recordings of 
"naturally occurring events." Using samples of 
board dialog from the case study, the validity 
claims within communicative action are placed at 
the center of empirical speech-act attention, and 
provide the tools for a much richer illustration of 
the skilled nature of the board's interactive rou- 
tines and behavioral dynamics to be made more 
transparent. When one observes "boards-in- 
action," what one sees, according to Samra- 
Fredericks, are managerial elites talking to each 
other. Whether in boards, or elsewhere, such con- 
versations are the empirical focus of analysis 
through the lens of communicative action. 

Face-to-face communication ranks highest in terms 
of communication richness. Since the advent of the 
Internet much communication is now electronically 

mediated, and in the developed world, at least, e-mail 
has now become a taken-for-granted in both systems 
and lifeworlds. Researchers within the field of infor- 
mation systems were among the first to recognize the 
potential of, and to apply insights from, the theory of 
communicative action at both micro- and macrolevels. 

Ojelanki K. Ngwenyama and Allen S. Lee's 
exploration of communication richness in e-mail 
is explicitly based on this theory where they 
address the "how" and "what" of communicative 
practices in a media-use, as distinct from face-to- 
face, situation. At the microlevel the validity 
claims within communicative action, based on 
intensive exploration of one episode of how man- 
agers use e-mail, are again the focus of attention. 
In the process they demonstrate how the intersub- 
jectivist approach may be drawn on to critique 
individualist-based information richness theory 
and through empirical illustration present a more 
theoretically sophisticated definition of communi- 
cation richness. 

The broad critical intent of the theory of com- 
municative action is also made explicit in that 
instrumental and strategic actions are differenti- 
ated from the more discursive form of communica- 
tive action. Where a person recognizes instances of 
distorted communication, for example, someone 
being latently strategic or not being genuine or 
sincere, then emancipation becomes possible. In all 
cases, identifying the relevant validity claim is the 
key to further analysis and interpretation. 

Critical Summary 

The theory of communicative action is not a 
metatheory; it is best viewed, according to 
Habermas himself, as the beginning of a social 
theory concerned to continuously validate its own 
critical standards. The future of this theory and 
its potential remain, by definition, open. From 
philosophy through information systems, lan- 
guage, critical management studies, organization 
and management theory, law, morality, discourse 
ethics, democracy, and political economy, appli- 
cations of the theory of communicative action 
have produced substantive findings. The rela- 
tions and validity claims within the communica- 
tive relation, and the constraints under which they 
stand, are substantive and real social phenomena. 
They are, therefore, open to further broad empirical 

Communicative Framing Analysis 171 

investigations from participant, virtual partici- 
pant, and observer perspectives in diverse fields. 

David O'Donnell 

See also Critical Theory; Discourse Ethics; Ethnography 

Further Readings 

Adler, P. S., Forbes, L. C, & Willmott, H. (2007). 
Critical management studies. Academy of 
Management Annals, 1(1), 119-179. 

Habermas, J. (1984). The theory of communicative action: 
Vol. 1. Reason and the rationalization of society (T. 
McCarthy, Trans.). Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. 

Habermas, J. (1987). The theory of communicative 
action: Vol. 2. System and lifeworld: A critique of 
functionalist reason (T. McCarthy, Trans.). 
Cambridge, UK: Polity Press. 

McCarthy, T. (1984). Translator's introduction. In J. 
Habermas, The theory of communicative action: Vol. 
1. Reason and the rationalization of society (pp. vii- 
xxxix) (T. McCarthy, Trans.). Cambridge, UK: Polity 

Ngwenyama, O. K., & Lee, A. S. (1997). Communication 
richness in electronic mail: Critical social theory and the 
contextuality of meaning. Management Information 
Systems Quarterly (MISQ), 21(2), 145-167. 

Samra-Fredericks, D. (2000). An analysis of the 

behavioural dynamics of corporate governance: A 
talk-based ethnography of a UK manufacturing 
"board in action." Corporate Governance — An 
International Review, 8(4), 311-326. 

Communicative Framing 

Communicative framing analysis is a procedure 
that allows researchers to study the framing 
patterns of multiple stakeholders across different 
research sites. Following particularly Erving 
Goffman's work, communicative framing refers to 
the ways in which stakeholders define what is 
going on in a given situation by foregrounding 
specific aspects during their interactions. The pro- 
cedure was first developed to examine framing 
within and across a series of intractable environ- 
mental conflicts. It allows both a fine-grained 
analysis of different kinds of framing within a 

particular case as well as the investigation of 
dominant framing patterns across several cases. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

There are several reasons for using communicative 
framing analysis. First, it is a mixed methods approach 
that enables researchers to build a more holistic 
picture of the phenomenon under investigation. 
Employing mixed methods ensures that the results 
are not methodological artifacts and allows research- 
ers to compensate for the weaknesses of one method 
with the strengths of another. Second, it is especially 
useful when comparatively little research has been 
conducted on the phenomenon of study. Third, fol- 
lowing Allen Lee's notion of multilevel interpreta- 
tions, it provides a means for developing first-, 
second-, and third-level interpretations of stakehold- 
ers' framing patterns within and across different 
cases, and thus enables comparative case analysis. 

The procedure starts with the conduct of quali- 
tative interviews designed to capture first-level 
interpretations of the phenomenon under study by 
the research participants themselves. Next, Barney 
Glaser and Anselm Strauss's "constant compara- 
tive method" of grounded data analysis is employed 
to develop a set of framing categories that apply 
within and across the different cases. Standardized 
frequency counts of these framing categories are 
then computed for each of the stakeholders based 
on a quantitative content analysis of their inter- 
views. These counts are subsequently used to con- 
duct a cluster analysis. This analysis enables a 
third-level interpretation of the ways stakeholders 
group together across the cases based on their 
framing similarities. Using this quantitative method 
increases the study's reliability and validity. Finally, 
the constant comparative analysis of the interviews 
is used again to gain more insight into the ways 
stakeholders in each cluster frame the phenomenon 
that is investigated. Examining stakeholders' first- 
level interpretations within each cluster generates a 
more holistic understanding of the phenomenon 
and lends credence and depth to the study, while 
at the same time improving the "transferability" of 
the outcomes to other, similar contexts. 


A study by Boris Brummans, Linda Putnam, 
Barbara Gray, Ralph Hanke, Roy Lewicki, and 

172 Community of Practice 

Carolyn Wiethoff provides an example of the use 
of communicative framing analysis. The authors 
used this procedure to examine how disputants 
from different stakeholder groups (e.g., farmers, 
businesspeople, and activists) involved in one of 
four different intractable environmental conflicts 
clustered together because they foregrounded simi- 
lar aspects in their definitions of their conflict situ- 
ations. The study details the various steps involved 
in this kind of analysis, entailing the purposive 
sampling of research participants from the differ- 
ent cases and their classification into stakeholder 
groups (e.g., farmers, businesspeople, activists); 
the conduct of semistructured interviews to elicit 
stakeholders' accounts; the collection of relevant 
archival data to gain more in-depth insights into 
the cases; the transcription of the interviews and 
their open and axial coding to generate "framing 
categories" that surface regularly in participants' 
accounts and reveal the specific aspects highlighted 
by the research participants in their definitions of 
the situations (e.g., their own identity, the identity 
of others, power issues); the checking of these 
inductively derived categories against extant 
research literature; the conduct of a formal (quan- 
titative) content analysis of the transcripts based 
on these framing categories; the use of this analy- 
sis's outcomes for the conduct of a cluster analysis 
to determine how research participants from dif- 
ferent stakeholder groups form "natural" clusters 
across the cases based on their framing similarities 
as well as to determine the dominant framing pat- 
terns within each of the clusters; and, finally, the 
explication of these dominant patterns based on a 
re-analysis of the interview transcripts. 

As Brummans and colleagues' study shows, 
communicative framing analysis is particularly 
useful for researchers who want to understand 
complex, multi-site phenomena that involve vari- 
ous groups of people who view, experience, and 
enact the world by highlighting different aspects. 
In so doing, it offers a sophisticated procedure for 
examining how different groups of people make 
sense of large-scale phenomena, such as environ- 
mental, national, or international conflicts. 

Critical Summary 

By combining multiple methods, communicative 
framing analysis provides a robust procedure for 

studying intricate communicative processes across 
various groups and research sites. In so doing, it 
allows insight into the ways people make sense of 
what is going on in a particular situation and helps 
explain what joins them together as well as sets 
them apart. The challenges of this procedure lie 
especially in finding elegant ways to generate syn- 
ergy between multiple methods of data collection 
and analysis, and in the management and interpre- 
tation of large volumes of different kinds of data. 

Ralph Hanke and Boris H. J. M. Brummans 

See also Comparative Case Study; Mixed Methods in 
Case Study Research; Multiple Sources of Evidence; 
Statistics, Use of in Case Study 

Further Readings 

Aldenderfer, M. S., & Blashfield, R. (1984). Cluster 

analysis. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage. 
Brummans, B. H. J. M., Putnam, L. L., Gray, B., Hanke, 

R., Lewicki, R. J., & Wiethoff, C. (2008). Making 

sense of intractable multiparty conflict: A study of 

framing in four environmental disputes. 

Communication Monographs, 75, 25-51. 
Glaser, B. C, & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of 

grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. 

Chicago: Aldine. 
Goffman, E. (1974). Frame analysis: An essay on the 

organization of experience. Boston: Northeastern 

University Press. 
Lee, A. S. (1991). Integrating positivist and interpretive 

approaches to organizational research. Organization 

Science, 2, 342-365. 

Community of Practice 

How humans acquire knowledge and skills is a 
central preoccupation for many sociologists and 
anthropologists concerned with social learning. 
The term community of practice refers to the social 
context and broader process of social learning and 
the shared sociocultural practices that characterize 
specific forms of learning and knowledge acquisi- 
tion within social groups. The term originated 
from the work of a few cognitive anthropologists 
who were engaged with understanding the process 
of learning through apprenticeship. Jean Lave and 

Community of Practice 173 

Etienne Wenger are perhaps two of the most nota- 
ble theorists in this regard, and they coined the 
term community of practice through the develop- 
ment of their ideas about legitimate peripheral 
participation. Lave and Wenger focused on five 
forms of apprenticeship (including midwives, meat 
cutters, tailors, naval quartermasters, and how 
people become members of an Alcoholics 
Anonymous group) and were concerned with how 
people first enter into situations or environments 
dominated by communities of practitioners already 
well versed in the rules, tasks, and skills those com- 
munities require of them, and the process by which 
they eventually become practitioners themselves. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Newcomers to communities of practice initially 
engage with them as novices (i.e., their participa- 
tion is peripheral, but legitimate nonetheless as 
they are accepted initially as newcomers into the 
group) and they set about engaging in small tasks 
and peripheral activities, becoming familiar with 
them and acquiring along the way the skills and 
knowledge necessary for becoming fully fledged 
and socially recognized practitioners themselves. 
This is dependent on observing the activities of 
experts, and listening to them and learning from 
them, which is why the examples and case studies 
of various forms of apprenticeship serve to illus- 
trate Lave and Wenger's arguments well. To be 
distant from an expert is to be cut off from the 
knowledge and tools of that expert, and so learn- 
ing is ineffective. Newcomers must first begin from 
a position on the periphery of the group — and on 
the periphery of ideas — and are then gradually 
drawn into the center of the group as they acquire 
skills and knowledge and eventually become 
experts themselves. This form of legitimate periph- 
eral participation is not confined to formal occu- 
pations, but to all forms of activity where novices 
must acquire the skills and vocabulary to partici- 
pate as effective members; in other words, how 
they become socialized and accepted into a group 
as legitimate and effective members. Lave and 
Wenger argue that we are all involved in communi- 
ties of practice, whether it is at home or at work, 
because we engage in processes of situated learning 
no matter how formal or informal they may be, or 
how much commitment is required of us. Thus, 

learning to play a sport is also about participating 
in a community of practice where rules and spe- 
cific skills, as well as the formal language and 
vocabulary that also define the activity, mean as 
much as physical ability if one is to learn a sport 
and to play and participate in it well. 

Central to Lave and Wenger's idea of the com- 
munity of practice is the concept of situated learn- 
ing where learning is by practice and doing, or in 
other words, through active participation where 
the newcomer, novice, or apprentice learns by 
being situated within the social context of the 
activity and its expression. Wenger went on to 
develop the idea of learning as being central to 
human identity, and it is only through effective 
participation in a community, and through engag- 
ing in the social practices of the community, that 
shared identities are continually produced and 
reproduced. Our engagement with the world and 
our understanding of it, Wenger argues, is a "nego- 
tiation of meaning" that requires active and vigor- 
ous participation in social processes. 


Lave and Wenger's ideas articulate and develop 
further theories in sociology and anthropology that 
have a long history, perhaps beginning with van 
Gennep's Rites de Passage, and which can be 
traced through various ethnographic and theoreti- 
cal writings about the acquisition of personhood 
and acceptance into various social groups — in 
short, how people become social and become 
accepted as members of groups through social 
learning. Anthropologist Gisli Palsson draws on 
the community of practice idea in his writings 
about the process of enskilment in the Icelandic 
fishing industry. Palsson argues that becoming a 
fisher entails a process of situated learning in that 
it takes place on the sea, by being out on boats, 
finding one's sea legs. Yet he also argues that the 
highly technical (and also business dimensions) of 
modern fishing mean that the acquisition of skill 
cannot be just a matter of being on a boat and 
watching what seasoned fishers do. It also involves 
formalized learning in fisheries colleges with for- 
malized accreditation. However, being in a warm 
classroom on land and being on a boat on a stormy 
sea are both situations where the apprentice fisher 
is becoming immersed in a community of practice. 

174 Comparative Case Study 

Both are examples of systems of apprenticeship 
through which novices participate in hands-on 
activities with seasoned and knowledgeable practi- 
tioners. What is important, as Lave and Wenger 
intimate in their writings, is that these relationships 
are also reproduced through being essential com- 
ponents of a community of practice. A community 
of practice is a community within which skilled 
interaction takes place — learning takes place within 
the context of relationships with people and with 
people's engagement with the world around them. 
In The Perception of the Environment, Tim 
Ingold's work on the dwelling perspective (itself 
influenced by the philosophy of Martin Heidegger), 
draws parallels to Lave and Wenger's arguments in 
terms of how Ingold sees the person as being inescap- 
ably immersed in an environment or lifeworld. 
Rather than assume that people enter a culture or 
society to which form and meaning have already 
been attached, Ingold argues that people continually 
bring the world into being around them through 
participation in social and cultural practices. Meaning, 
argues Ingold, is inherent in the ways in which people 
engage pragmatically with the constituents of the 
world. This echoes nicely — and resoundingly — Lave's 
own arguments in Cognition in Practice that suggest 
cognition is not something that goes on in people's 
heads, but is a social activity firmly grounded in a 
complex of social relations between people as social 
beings and the world around them. 

Critical Summary 

Lave and Wenger's ideas have found currency 
beyond academic concern with learning, knowl- 
edge, and skill, and have become particularly 
attractive to those involved with knowledge man- 
agement and problem solving in organizations, as 
well as in education and lifelong learning contexts. 

Mark Nuttall 

See also Actor-Network Theory; Codifying Social Practices; 
Complexity; Formative Context; Naturalistic Context; 
Practice-Oriented Research; Praxis; Self-Confrontation 
Method; Self -Presentation; Webs of Significance 

Further Readings 

Ingold, T. (2000). The perception of the environment. 
London: Routledge. 

Lave, J. (1988). Cognition in practice. Cambridge, UK: 

Cambridge University Press. 
Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: 

Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, UK: 

Cambridge University Press. 
Palsson, G. (1994). Enskilment at sea. Man, 29(A), 901-927. 
Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice. Cambridge, 

UK: Cambridge University Press. 

Comparative Case Study 

The comparative case study examines in rich 
detail the context and features of two or more 
instances of specific phenomena. This form of case 
study still strives for the "thick description" com- 
mon in single case studies; however, the goal of 
comparative case studies is to discover contrasts, 
similarities, or patterns across the cases. These 
discoveries may in turn contribute to the develop- 
ment or the confirmation of theory. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

The comparative case study can achieve any of the 
principal goals of the general case study approach 
and is not limited in terms of descriptive, explor- 
atory, or explanatory goals. Within this broad 
context, the comparative aspect of the case study 
can have either a qualitative or quantitative focus. 
Comparative case studies tend toward an exami- 
nation of the typical rather than the outlier or 
extreme case. Generally, research into the unusual, 
rare, or revelatory has not been appropriate for 
multiple-case designs, simply because selected 
cases must demonstrate enough commonality to 
allow for comparison. 

Robert Yin, who has written extensively on case 
study research, states that comparative case studies 
are multiple experiments and not instances of mul- 
tiple subjects across a single experiment. In case 
comparison, several cases serve as replication sites 
for extension or surfacing of theory. Cases may 
also be viewed as a replication of the instance or 
phenomenon, similar to an experiment in a quan- 
titative undertaking. These comparisons can be 
structured as either between-case or within-case 
studies. Within-case studies, for example, might 
include several organizations within a specific 

Comparative Case Study 175 

industry, cohorts from a particular educational 
institution, or negotiations between a single coun- 
try and several allies. 

The comparative case approach uses an iterative 
analysis of each case with final comparison of 
emergent themes and explanations. The results of 
each analysis are not pooled, as the strategy is that 
of multiple experiments, not multiple sampling. 
Comparison of cases is post hoc in nature, and 
may be independent of the level of analysis of the 
case. A longitudinal design is also possible, with 
one or more instances or sites serving as separate 
case studies over time. One variation of this is a 
pilot study, which Robert Yin has used to define an 
analytical framework and to refine instruments 
and research tactics. 

The case survey is a variant of the comparative 
case study that views cases chosen for research as a 
series of data points from which comparison and 
analysis will be possible. The case survey produces a 
sample size of hundreds of cases, from which 
researchers draw out of the detail of their analysis 
the critical components or factors that are interest- 
ing enough to warrant the study. To find comparable 
sites for this type of research is challenging in any 
context, and the depth of detail generated through 
the case survey produces two complicating effects in 
this form of the case study: increased effort (trans- 
lating into costs) and the risk of noncomparability 
due to variations in significant contextual factors. 
The case survey represents the worst of a quantita- 
tive-qualitative mixed approach, particularly when 
the factor of interest is unduly simplified in order to 
make volumes of data more manageable. 


The flexibility inherent in between-sites or within- 
site designs, and longitudinal or cross-dimension 
designs that presents multiple occurrences is offset 
by the nearly impossible challenge of finding per- 
fectly matched cases. The use of multiple instances 
within one organization greatly reduces the con- 
founding effects of different organization cultures 
and contexts. Cynthia Hardy, Nelson Phillips, and 
Thomas Lawrence's study of Mere et Enfant in 
Palestine (a small, nongovernmental organization 
[NGO] that provides nutritional services to women 
and children in Palestine) is an example of a single 
organization with several, varying collaborative 

partnerships. The examination of each case high- 
lighted particular theoretical categories (e.g., stra- 
tegic, knowledge creation, and influence effects) 
that were then drawn together through compari- 
son to define a framework and then extend a tri- 
partite theory of interorganization collaboration. 

Special characteristics of a specific case are 
sometimes obvious only in comparison with oth- 
ers, particularly when cases derive from different 
contexts. Selection of cases based on population 
characteristics, dependant or independent vari- 
ables, and measurement levels is an effective point 
of departure, depending on whether the researcher 
is pursuing a most-similar or least-similar design. 
Notwithstanding the qualitative nature of com- 
parative case studies, history, maturation, and 
instrumentation effects are all dangers in the case 
study comparison, particularly in time-lagged, 
cross-case comparisons. Strategies to overcome 
these include selecting cases from the same organi- 
zation, same year, same study, or same context. 

Comparative case studies are particularly useful 
for studying organizational change over time. The 
longitudinal study by Aimin Yan and Barbara Gray 
that investigates bargaining power in joint ventures 
illustrates a number of key aspects of this research 
strategy discussed above. The authors use various 
forms of data collection, including interviews and 
archival data, as well as analytic induction in the 
analysis of each joint venture case sequentially, 
making incremental comparisons as coding catego- 
ries appeared in their data. The study limits cases 
to manufacturing ventures that are widely repre- 
sentative for the sector and that are comparable in 
terms of duration and access to informants. 

Critical Summary 

Comparative case studies extend the value of the case 
study approach through iterative model-building and 
comparison. The case's rich description on a limited 
number of variables enables a depth of analysis by 
providing an opportunity to determine patterns in 
the data that add or extend the theory application, or 
enrich and refine the theoretical framework. The 
challenge is to return to the comparative level for 
final conclusions and to ensure that the framework 
for comparison is theoretically sound. 

Shelagh Campbell 

176 Comparing the Case Study With Other Methodologies 

See also Before-and-After Case Study Design; Bounding 
the Case; Case Selection; Case-to-Case Synthesis; Case 
Within a Case 

Further Readings 

Hardy, C, Phillips, N., & Lawrence, T. (2003). Resources, 
knowledge and influence: The organizational effects of 
interorganizational collaboration. Journal of 
Management Studies, 20(2), 321-347. 

Kaarbo, J., & Beasley, R. K. (1999). A practical guide to 
the comparative case study method in political 
psychology. Political Psychology, 20(2), 369-391. 

Ragin, C. C. (1987). The comparative method: Moving 
beyond qualitative and quantitative strategies. Berkley, 
Los Angeles, & London: University of California Press. 

Yan, A., & Gray, B. (1994). Bargaining power, 
management control, and performance in United 
States-China joint ventures: A comparative case study. 
Academy of Management journal, 37(6), 1478-1517. 

Comparing the Case Study 
With Other Methodologies 

Comparing the case study with the experiment in 
psychology and the survey in sociology reveals 
three characteristics of qualitative research: 
research in natural settings, the development of 
concepts, and a focus on social process. But com- 
pared to other qualitative traditions, the design 
underlying most case studies is quite structured. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

The experiment lends itself to determining the 
causal effect of a stimulus or treatment; for 
instance, the effect of a commercial on opinion, 
attitude, or behavior. The researcher must be cer- 
tain the experimental factor is present during the 
experiment and that other factors do not occur 
during the experiment. Therefore a research setting 
is artificially created in which a single factor can be 
manipulated while other factors are excluded. This 
is mostly realized by matching subjects into pairs 
and randomly assigning one to the treatment group 
and the other to the control group. By collecting 
data from both groups on behavioral and attitudi- 
nal variables before and after the treatment, and by 

comparing the results, the researcher determines 
indications of a causal effect of the stimulus on the 
dependent variable (attitude, behavior). 

An experiment is characterized by a large 
amount of control by the researcher on the research 
setting (laboratory situation, exclusion of other 
factors, and induction of a stimulus), the composi- 
tion of the research groups, and the activity in the 
research situation (administration of question- 
naires, looking at films). 

The survey is the most widely used standardized 
form of sociological research, especially in the 
domain of public opinion research. The aim of the 
survey is to obtain information about individual 
attitudes, values, opinions, circumstances, and 
behaviors in large populations by using question- 
naires. Instead of questioning a population as a 
whole, a relatively large random sample of the 
population is drawn as representative, from which 
inferences are made about the larger population. 

The first aim of a survey is a statistical descrip- 
tion of the characteristics of a population. Survey 
data enable researchers to present an overview of 
the incidence or prevalence of certain opinions or 
attitudes and to establish relationships with other 
characteristics or variables such as income, sex, or 
age. Besides a general overview, following from 
the distribution of research topics and a statistical 
elaboration of existing relationships, a more 
detailed description of specific relationships in seg- 
ments or subgroups of the larger population may 
follow. Such a cross-sectional survey representing 
a population at one certain point in time has limi- 
tations for conclusions about change or the causes 
of differences between subgroups of populations. 

The case study is a research design with a long 
history in the social sciences, especially in those 
traditions that hold a participative view on social 
life and organization. Well-known examples are 
Street Corner Society by William Foote Whyte and 
When Prophecy Fails by Leon Festinger, Henry 
Riecken, and Stanley Schachter. The case study is 
the basic design for anthropological field work in 
non-Western cultures, as it represents an extended 
examination of the culture, or way of life, of a 
particular group of people. 

A case study is an in-depth qualitative research 
strategy used for a single instance or event, 
although comparison of several or multiple cases is 
not uncommon. The case as unit is investigated by 

Comparing the Case Study With Other Methodologies 177 

participation in its natural context, for instance a 
street gang in one neighborhood (Whyte), or one 
particular sect (Festinger). Participant observation 
of the natural course of events enhances doing jus- 
tice to the complexity of the phenomenon under 
study, that is, the entanglement of distinct elements 
in the situation. Although many case studies 
require an extensive exploration of the research 
setting, most case studies, like all qualitative 
research strategies, are informed by elaborated 
substantive and theoretical ideas or concepts. 

Based on these global descriptions of three 
research designs, more specific characteristics of 
the case study will now be clarified. 


Compared to the designs of the experiment and 
survey, case studies are conducted in the context of 
real life. Typical of experiments is an artificial 
approximation of a behavioral setting, which 
accounts for the main weakness of this design with 
respect to the external validity of the results. It 
may be hard to generalize or even translate conclu- 
sions beyond the laboratory. Survey designs also 
do not coincide with everyday life in which people 
discuss circumstances, exchange opinions, and 
react to significant others. The interview is an 
exceptional situation shaped by a stranger (the 
researcher) by means of a questionnaire. As a 
design, both experiment and survey concentrate on 
exact measurement under controlled conditions, as 
a result of which the contextual meaning of these 
measurements is secondary. 

Choosing the case study design is a choice for 
maintaining the naturalness of the research situa- 
tion and the natural course of events. The point of 
departure is the specific case: Data are collected 
and analyzed in a way that respects the integrity of 
the situation under study. As a result, the boundar- 
ies of case, phenomena, and context are not clearly 
evident and must be elaborated within the inquiry 
itself. Reconstruction of social processes and the 
elaboration of an analytical framework are two 
other distinctive characteristics of the case study. 

Social Process 

The case study design enables close investiga- 
tion of dynamic social processes as they evolve in 

the research setting. A static perspective, on the 
other hand, is typical of the survey design, in 
which data collection takes place in a short period 
of time and it is assumed that changes in social 
reality did not occur between the first and last 
interviews. Because processes relate only to the 
opinions of respondents about changes in their 
own life, the collected data are perceived as the 
condition of a population as a whole at one 
moment in time. The experiment also pays little 
attention to processes. Although causal effects are 
the main focus — that is, changes in opinion, atti- 
tude, or behavior — controlled laboratory experi- 
ments only simulate the social processes involved. 

Case studies concentrate on the description of 
social processes and the explanation of their 
dynamics. Doing justice to the dynamic character 
of everyday life is essential when conducting a case 
study. This can be achieved by participating in the 
ongoing process and reconstructing the perspec- 
tives of the actors involved. The complexity of the 
situation requires a triangulation of viewpoints 
and observations. A single perspective is brought 
together with observations made by the researcher 
and linked up with perspectives of others partici- 
pating in the situation or in the background to 
enable different layers of the situation to emerge. 

This causes data collection generally to be lon- 
gitudinal and mostly extended over several months, 
and in some cases even longer. 

Analytical Elaboration 

At the start of the inquiry, the case study 
researcher lacks a clear vision of the processes 
involved in the research situation. This makes the 
point of departure of a case study different from 
that of experiment and survey. Typical for those 
designs is a theoretically and empirically elabo- 
rated framework based on detailed knowledge 
from previous research. 

To be meaningful, a survey must be founded on 
prior knowledge of the population to enable sam- 
pling, and upon knowledge of existing variations of 
the phenomena to enable an adequate construction 
of measurements, and lastly upon knowledge of rel- 
evant circumstances and background information. 

The experiment is also based on prior knowl- 
edge of the population, the stimuli, and other fac- 
tors influencing the phenomena under study and 

178 Comparing the Case Study With Other Methodologies 

how to measure them. Without such knowledge 
there is no way to know how to match groups or 
which influences should be eliminated. Apart from 
theoretical elaboration and derivation of hypothe- 
ses, both research designs need grounding in 
extended empirical knowledge before research is 
actually conducted. 

Case studies start from the opposite direction. 
First, the researcher must get acquainted with the 
case, the context and significant processes, to be 
able to define appropriate procedures and ordering 
categories. This means that the case study approach 
consists of several phases of field inquiry and 
exploration aiming to complement analytical lacu- 
nae and to develop methodological procedures. 
Both this explorative attitude as well as the 
dynamic character of the phenomenon under study 
stress the necessity of employing different methods 
to be able to gain a meaningful and detailed picture 
of it. The researcher participates in the situation, 
takes field notes, talks informally with informants, 
conducts interviews, consults experts in the field, 
uses archives, and makes inventories of what is 
going on in the situation. These different data not 
only allow for different perspectives on the daily 
course of life, but the data can also correct and 
supplement each other. By deliberately using differ- 
ent types of information (triangulation), research- 
ers improve the quality of their observations. 


Prototypical case studies are to be found in organi- 
zation research. Many of these studies have a prac- 
tical background: a problem that is assumed to be 
related to the (inter)actions of the stakeholders 
in the organization. Analytically speaking, the 
research is focused on the perspectives that guide 
the actions of all participants on the work floor. 

This type of diagnostic organizational research 
applies a rather structured research design using 
concurrent explanations of the problematic situa- 
tion. After a short and intensive exploration phase 
to produce an inventory of the main units and 
groups and their perspectives on the problem, 
observations and analyses subsequently focus on 
assessing the relevance of the provisory explana- 
tions (causes and conditions). Progress in this kind 
of practical research is stimulated by the use of a 
research group to speed up observations and 

facilitate analytical developments through brain- 
storming sessions. Many data are produced by 
using standard instruments. In the course of analy- 
sis, comparisons between and within subunits 
clarify the roles of conditions and elaborate a case- 
specific theory. 

Many case studies have a diagnostic or evalua- 
tive objective, mostly related to specific situations 
in organizations. Others, for instance the study by 
Leon Festinger, start with an explorative objective 
to find out what happens to a group when a 
prophecy, such as of the end of the world, fails. 
Case studies may also have the objective of testing 
a hypothesis, as in William Foote Whyte's study of 
the social structure of a slum. In studies with a 
more theoretical objective, the case-specific analy- 
sis is supplemented by a comparative analysis of 
strategically selected cases, known as multiple case 
study, to test the general relevance of the condi- 
tions that were found. 

Some authors use the term case study to refer to 
all forms of qualitative research. Although all 
qualitative research subscribes to naturalness, 
social processes, and analytical elaboration, not all 
qualitative research aims at developing case- 
specific explanations. Qualitative research comes 
in many different forms, three of which are often 
mentioned as a variety of the case study approach: 
ethnographic study, life history and biographical 
research, and grounded theory research. 

The Ethnographic Study 

Ethnography aims at reconstruction and descrip- 
tion of (an element of) the culture of a social group 
or society. It is sometimes qualified as an extended 
case study because of the need for extensive and 
long-standing participation in everyday routines to 
master the language and cultural meaning system. 
Compared to the practical prototype of the case 
study, the design of ethnographic research is more 
open as it misses the focus on a specific problem- 
atic situation. 

The ethnologist tries to gain an insider's view 
and is free to use every opportunity to discover the 
principles behind everyday routines. This may be 
qualified as a process of socialization, making the 
ethnography a rather personal undertaking. The 
main research strategy is participation in all kinds 
of situations, making observations, taking notes 

Comparing the Case Study With Other Methodologies 179 

and talking to members, reading documents, 
or taking photographs. During field work, the 
researcher mainly writes reflections on the increas- 
ing data; the abundance of observations will later 
be analyzed systematically from different angles 
defined by the researcher. 

Life History and Biographical Research 

Case studies of (mostly professional) people aim 
to illustrate relevant perspectives from participants 
in problematic situations. The life history approach 
has its roots in the Chicago School investigations 
of community life and deviant behavior. A perfect 
example is the study by William Thomas and 
Florian Znaniecki of letters that immigrants in 
Chicago wrote to their families in Poland. The 
objective of life history research is to illustrate the 
effects (e.g., changes in values) of general societal 
processes (e.g., immigration) on the daily lives of 
participants. Apart from extensive interviewing, 
data can be drawn from letters, documents, and 
self-reports as these are produced in their everyday 
context; they all contribute to the versatility of 
biographical research. 

By supplementing the perspective of the central 
case with those from participants in the immediate 
social context and comparing these with other 
cases and their contexts, these subjective views can 
be reformulated in terms of a general theory of the 
problematic situation under study. 

Grounded Theory Research 

The grounded theory approach aims at formu- 
lating theory by extensive study, comparing a rela- 
tively large number of cases of a certain phenomena. 
Grounded theory research starts in an exploratory 
way with sensitizing concepts that direct the initial 
observation and analysis. Theory is developed 
through an iterative process of alternating phases 
of observation, analysis (coding), and reflection on 
analytical categories. Core methodological princi- 
ples are theoretical sampling of new instances of 
and constant comparison of all situations within a 
relevant category to test, correct, or redefine the 
developing theory. 

Because the research objective expresses an ana- 
lytical focus on the development of general con- 
cepts and substantive theories, grounded theory 

research deviates from the case study design that 
aims at description and explanations that are spe- 
cific for the case in relation to its context. 

Critical Summary 

Typical for case study methodology is that research 
is conducted in a real-life context and that investi- 
gations produce a case-specific theory of the natu- 
ral development of the processes involved. Although 
case study research may start with the objective to 
test specified hypotheses, the greater part of these 
studies focus on diagnosis or evaluation of situa- 
tions in a specific organizational context. They are 
informed by elaborated theoretical concepts and 
substantive ideas, and use standard instruments 
for quantitative measurement as well as qualitative 
data gathering methods. 

The case study can therefore be considered one 
of the most structured qualitative research strate- 
gies: essential exploration followed by focused 
data collection and analysis. 

Ellen Hijmans and Fred Wester 

See also Case Study Research in Anthropology; Chicago 
School; Ethnography; Extended Case Method; 
Grounded Theory; Life History; Naturalistic Inquiry; 
Practice-Oriented Research; Triangulation 

Further Readings 

Dul, J., & Hak, T. (2008). Case study methodology in 

business research. Amsterdam: Elsevier. 
Festinger, L., Riecken, H. W., & Schachter, S. (1956). 

When prophecy fails. Minneapolis: University of 

Minnesota Press. 
Patton, M. Q. (2001). Qualitative research and 

evaluation methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 
Pole, C. J., & Burgess, R. G. (Eds.). (2000). Cross- 
cultural case study. Amsterdam: JAI. 
Stake, R. E. (2006). Multiple case study analysis. New 

York: Guilford. 
Thomas, W. I., & Znaniecki, F. (1958). The Polish 

peasant in Europe and America. New York: Dover. 

(Original work published 1918-1920) 
Whyte, W. F. (1961). Street corner society: The social 

structure of an Italian slum. Chicago: University of 

Chicago Press. 
Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: Design and 

methods (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

180 Complexity 


Complexity refers to the level of social organiza- 
tion of a particular integrated system under inves- 
tigation. Complexity means more than just a 
"complicated" organization or pattern of endeavor. 
Complex phenomena cannot be understood by 
examining their constituent parts using simplistic 
reductions. Complex cases are "alive," purpose- 
ful, dynamic, evolving, spontaneous, adaptable, 
unpredictable, and self-organized. Dennis Sumara 
and Brent Davis describe complex cases as having 
an integrity that transcends their components. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

To be understood in any profound way, a case 
must be examined organically, taking into account 
the complex systems in which it is nested. A "com- 
plicated" case, in contrast, can be disassembled, 
understood with sufficient knowledge of its com- 
ponents, and then reassembled without disturbing 
its functioning. A strength of the case study 
approach is its ability to holistically investigate 
complex social events and to examine broadly 
based complex systemic sets of causes and effects. 
Reality is complex, and the case method has the 
ability to deal with the full variety of evidence that 
a researcher may collect in order to peek into an 
intricate and unique social system. 

Complexity is also a set of concepts that attempts 
to describe this intricate and particular level of 
organization, integrating biological, cognitive, and 
social dimensions of examination. It is a theoretical 
perspective and methodological approach to 
vibrant, complex, and unstable systems, their con- 
ditions, interrelationships, and spaces. 

Complexity theory contributes several useful 
theoretical perspectives that can assist researchers 
employing a case approach. As Robert Stake 
argues, "issues as conceptual structures" can shape 
primary research questions in order to direct atten- 
tion to a case's complexity and contextuality. 

• Groups, communities, and organizations are 
complex adaptive systems: Complex adaptive sys- 
tems contain "agents," which can be people, pro- 
cesses, or computer systems. Agents are able to 
exchange information with their environment and, 

through this exchange, learn, adapt, and change their 
behavior. Agents interact on a local level, but such 
patterns are nonlinear, in that small "causes" may 
have large effects and large "causes" may have small 
effects. This theoretical lens encourages researchers 
to focus on the ongoing evolution of people interact- 
ing with elements within their environment. 

• Systems are composed of a series of complex 
responsive processes: This refers to the actions of 
human bodies as they interact with one another so 
that a person interacts both with the social and, at 
the same time, with the self. Because these two 
interactive dimensions happen at once, individual 
minds/selves form the social while being formed by 
the social at the same time. Therefore, the social 
and the individual are the same phenomenon. This 
concept calls the researcher's attention to the pat- 
terns of relationships and the further patterns of 
interaction these relationships produce. 

• Agents and systems are co-emergent and have 
co-implicating relationships: Since individuals and 
the systems they create are continually learning and 
adapting, and since the social and the self are 
formed at the same time through complex respon- 
sive processes, individuals and systems are inti- 
mately connected and coevolve, mutually influencing 
their growth and development. Though cases are, 
as Stake suggests, generally bounded systems, this 
theoretical perspective highlights the unique recip- 
rocal, interactive exchanges between active agents 
and the environments in which they are embedded, 
and the difficulty of definitively stating where the 
case ends and the environment or context begins. 


Complexity theory contends that only a partial 
view of any system can be captured. A researcher 
using a case approach must attend to the condi- 
tions in which the system emerges and make sense 
of the living experiences of interaction. Systems do 
have elements, but it is the interdependencies and 
interactions among the elements that create the 
unique and particular whole. So the researcher 
using complexity needs to examine and illuminate 
the interrelationships and interdependencies among 
the elements, including individuals, processes, and 
forms of communication, as well as the unity of 
the system itself. 

Complexity 181 

The following are additional dimensions to 
consider when systematically investigating a 
complex case. 

The Importance of Context and History. Robert 
Yin states that a case study is an empirical inquiry 
involving a phenomenon embedded within its real- 
life context. Complex systems have a history. They 
evolve through time, and their past is co-responsible 
for their present. Patterns of human interaction 
produce further patterns of interaction. Past history 
and experiences are added on and therefore 
potentially shape future trajectory. History includes 
practices incorporated into a system's patterns of 
relating, embodied knowledge within networks 
and nodes, and a sequencing of the system's 
structural changes. In describing a case's history 
and context, significant events are important, but 
understanding also requires paying attention to the 
configuration of relationships over time as well as 
the environment in which the system lives. 

Permeable or Open Boundaries. Complex adaptive 
systems are open systems. Individuals interact with 
others in the environment, extending interaction and 
communication beyond the boundaries of the system. 
Both the system and the environment in which it is 
embedded change through these interactions. These 
changes ripple out, spilling into other systems. 
Though a case is defined with certain, clear boundaries, 
researchers should keep in mind that these boundaries 
are not rigid and static, but porous and bidirectional, 
and, in a sense, arbitrarily set. 

Nonlinear Dynamics. Nonlinearity refers to the 
principle that the whole is not necessarily equal to 
the sum of its parts, and that a relatively small 
change can lead to significantly different system 
states. Since small changes are amplified by 
feedback loops (input-output circular processes 
that allow complex systems to change their structure 
through their own activity), this produces complex 
patterns of unanticipated consequences that make 
it impossible to predict long-term behavior. Positive 
feedback amplifies itself by strengthening the 
processes that gave rise to it; negative feedback 
weakens them. For the case researcher this may 
mean the use of process tracing, proposed by 
Alexander George and Andrew Bennett, in an 
effort to examine nonlinear complexity in detail. 

Emergence. Emergence is the arising of new 
coherent properties, patterns, and structures when 
systems undergo a process of reorganization. This 
bottom-up phenomenon comes from patterns of 
behavior enacted by agents in an informal network 
of relationships that continually grows, changes, 
and adapts to new situations. Agents residing in 
one level produce behaviors that lay a level above 
them. Making sense of the dynamic processes that 
give rise to and sustain evolving complex systems 
requires going beyond the notion of cause and 
effect. In emergent systems, global patterns cannot 
be reduced to individual behavior. 

Spaces of Possibility. Systems interact in ways 
that change each of them, resulting in the growth 
of complexity from relatively simple beginnings. 
The enlargement of the space of possibility arises 
from moving toward such complexity. When the 
case system approaches a far-from-equilibrium 
state, it is subject to spontaneous and dramatic 
reorganizations. These points of instability, or 
bifurcation points, allow the system to branch off 
into an entirely new state where new forms of 
order may emerge. For the researcher, this means 
examining, in depth, the various transitional points 
within a system's evolution. 

Nodes and Networks. These are the formal or 
informal subgroups of individuals that act as 
interconnections and function as centers of activity. 
Nodes rapidly come together, separate, and reform 
in different permutations according to need; 
networks tend to maintain long-term relationships 
throughout the rest of the system. Case researchers 
illuminate the connectivity and the configuration 
of relationships within these nodes and networks 
in an effort to map complex responsive processes. 

Webs of Significance. This phrase, coined by 
Clifford Geertz, refers to the influence of culture 
on human behavior and the construction of social 
systems. Not only do human beings create and 
modify their culture, but culture also serves to 
define the social world. We cannot escape our 
cultures. We create and are suspended in them. 
The case researcher using complexity theory, 
therefore, focuses the analysis on an interpretive 
search for meaning within the relational nodes and 
webs of complex responsive processes. 

182 Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative Data: ATLAS. ti 

Critical Summary 

A complex social phenomenon cannot be under- 
stood by reducing it to its parts. Rather, a more 
holistic approach is called for. Complexity is a 
theoretical perspective that attempts to respond to 
this understanding. Case studies viewed through 
this lens pose a challenge to researchers since cases 
are dynamic and constantly responding to the 
influences of culture and environment. Researchers 
must be mindful of these influences since they are 
integral to understanding the cases. 

Rosemary C. Reilly and Warren hinds 
See also Ecological Perspectives; Webs of Significance 

Further Readings 

George, A., & Bennett, A. (2005). Case studies and 

theory development in the social sciences. Cambridge: 

MIT Press. 
Mainzer, K. (2007). Thinking in complexity (Rev. and 

enlarged 5th ed.). New York: Springer. 
Stacey, R., & Griffin, D. (2005). A complexity 

perspective on researching organizations. London: 

Stake, R. (1995). The art of case study research. 

Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 
Sumara, D., & Davis, B. (1997). Enlarging the space of 

the possible: Complexity, complicity and action 

research practices. In T. Carson & D. Sumara (Eds.), 

Action research as a living practice (pp. 299-312). 

New York: Peter Lang. 
Yin, R. (2003). Case study research: Design and methods 

(3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage. 

Computer-Based Analysis of 
Qualitative Data: ATLAS.ti 

ATLAS. ti, which runs on Microsoft Windows, is 
a software program designed to support the 
researcher in the interpretation and analysis of a 
variety of data sources, including text, audio, 
and images. Data can be coded, searched, 
retrieved, codes defined, related codes or docu- 
ments grouped together, conceptual diagrams of 
the emerging understanding of the data created, 
memos written, and tables of numerical data 

abstracted and exported to statistical software 
such as SPSS. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

A case study project is created in ATLAS.ti as a 
hermeneutic unit (HU) that bundles together all 
relevant data sources, codes, conceptual linkages, 
memos, and comments. The data included in case 
study research (e.g., text, audio, video, photo- 
graphs, diagrams, and maps) are imported into the 
software and organized, managed, coded, and ana- 
lyzed in the HU. Data files are referred to as pri- 
mary documents (PDs). Each PD is numbered in the 
order in which it is imported into ATLAS.ti — for 
example, PI, P2. In case study research, where a 
number of PDs may constitute a case, the numeri- 
cal ordering of PDs has an important data manage- 
ment function. The PDs for a specific case can be 
grouped together by importing them concurrently. 
If all PDs for a specific case are not imported con- 
currently but are scattered among other PDs, the 
numerical position of the PDs can be easily 
changed to group them as cases. 

PDs may also be organized by cases using a 
function called "families." A family is a cluster of 
documents or codes or memos. Within-case and 
across-case clusters of PDs can also be created. 
For example, in a case study focused on one or 
more schools, each school may constitute a case. 
All data related to a specific school can be clus- 
tered into a family tagged with the name of the 
school. The PDs of within-case variables such as 
teachers and students can be clustered in PD 
families labeled "Teachers" and "Students," 
respectively, separating the PDs according to cases 
and variables within cases. Across-case groupings 
can be similarly clustered. Grouping PDs in fami- 
lies facilitates a focus on a specific case and/or a 
specific variable set, unencumbered by the pres- 
ence of PDs that do not belong to that case or 

In ATLAS.ti, data must be coded to access fur- 
ther functions of the software. Coding refers to the 
assigning of a PD to one or more codes. A code is 
a tag or label that best describes the data to which 
it is assigned. A margin display alongside a text- or 
image-based PD provides a visual cue of coding as 
it occurs. There is no margin display for video or 
audio PDs. 

Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative Data: ATLAS. ti 183 

There are at least two types of codes that organize 
the data: data management codes are mutually 
exclusive, and describe the characteristics of a PD; 
for example, " adolescent " or " female . " Characteristics 
of a PD are often sociodemographic variables. The 
whole PD is assigned to the relevant data manage- 
ment codes. Conceptual codes assign meaning drawn 
from the data (inductive) or from theory (deductive), 
and are generally not mutually exclusive. Segments 
of a PD (e.g., lines of text, portions of a photograph, 
seconds of an audio file, or frames of a video) are 
assigned to multiple conceptual codes. 

Codes are organized in a code pane. The 
"groundedness" of a code refers to the amount of 
data coded to a specific code. How grounded a 
code is in the data is indicated by a number imme- 
diately next to the code in the code pane, indicating 
how many times the code has been assigned in the 
data. A table for all codes illustrating their ground- 
edness can be exported from the software to Excel 
or SPSS. A definition for each code, to increase 
coder reliability, can be inserted in the blank com- 
ment space beneath the code in the code pane. 

Searching for words in text PDs can assist the 
coding process by quickly finding specific words 
that may signify a code. Automatic coding makes 
use of the word search function to assign words-in- 
context to one or more codes automatically. The 
context (a word, sentence, paragraph, multiple 
paragraphs, or the whole document) can be selected 
when "scoping" the search. Word search and auto- 
matic coding functions cannot be used with non- 
text PDs such as photographs, maps, audio, and 
video files. 

As coding progresses, relationships among the 
codes may become apparent. Codes that are 
related may be grouped together in code families, 
with each family designating a theme or category. 
By selecting a specific code family, access is pro- 
vided to only the codes in that theme or category. 
Attention can be focused on the codes that consti- 
tute the code family without being distracted by 
other codes. An in-depth, focused analysis of a 
case by a theme can be facilitated by selecting the 
PD family that represents the case (excluding all 
other PDs) and the code family representing a 
theme (excluding all other codes and themes). 

Code and PD families can be used to delimit or 
scope a search using the query tool in ATLAS.ti. To 
make the best use of the query tool for searches, 

the PDs must be coded. Assigning PDs to both 
data management and conceptual codes facilitates 
the retrieval of data. The clustering of PDs into 
families allows searches to be limited to a case, as 
well as to within- and across-case searches. The 
results of a search are reliant on the quality of cod- 
ing of PDs. Boolean searches combine, intersect, 
and subtract coded data. Proximity searches show 
relationships between coded data such as whether 
data overlap, enclose, or are near to other coded 
data. Search and retrieval enables further in-depth 
exploration of the data. 

Writing is an important aspect of case study 
analysis, and within ATLAS.ti, comments and 
notes may be written in the form of memos, pro- 
viding a chronological trail of developing thoughts 
and concepts. By writing within the software, new 
comparisons, insights, themes, and relationships 
between codes may emerge, deepening initial 
understandings and explanations. 

Two types of display in ATLAS.ti that are use- 
ful for case study research are matrices or tables, 
and semantic networks. Matrices of codes, show- 
ing coding as number of words or number of 
times a section of a PD has been assigned to a 
code, can be exported from ATLAS.ti to a statisti- 
cal package. The network view tool allows the 
researcher to assign relationships between codes. 
Codes and memos are easily imported or created 
in the network view. Causal, associative, and 
other relationships between codes can be assigned. 
New relationship types can be created in the 
Relationship Editor. An iterative and interactive 
process of working between network views and 
the analytic text of memos can lead to the discov- 
ery of further relationships, understandings, and 

A hypertext function links selected sections of 
one PD to selected sections of the same PD and/or 
other PDs. These links can be traversed by follow- 
ing the symbols denoting hypertext links in the 
display margin, or can be visually displayed in the 
network view. Causal, associative, and other rela- 
tionships between hyperlinked segments can be 

Data can be exported from ATLAS.ti. Output 
including the text assigned to one or more codes, 
references to nontext data, PD lists, codes and 
their definitions, and memos can be brought to 
screen, sent to file, or printed. 

184 Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative Data: CAITA (Computer-Assisted Interpretive Textual Analysis) 


Vaishali Patel and Anne Riley used ATLAS. ti to 
organize, manage, and analyze data in a multiple 
case study examining use of Outcomes Management 
System (OMS) data in decision making by staff in 
out-of-home childcare programs. Type of staff and 
service setting were defined as cases, and cross- 
case comparison of OMS data usage was under- 
taken. PDs were grouped according to case and, 
following coding in the software, reports display- 
ing selections of text assigned to specific codes 
were generated and read to further the fragment- 
ing of codes. Memos documented emerging pat- 
terns, meanings, and understandings. Additional 
reports of text coded to two or more codes were 
generated and patterns in the data identified, com- 
pared, integrated, and summarized. The authors' 
reported an iterative and cyclical process of cod- 
ing, memo development, reports, and further read- 
ing of PDs to deepen the case study analysis. 

Critical Summary 

ATLAS.ti is a storage, organizational, manage- 
ment, and analysis tool for case study research. A 
variety of data types can be imported into ATLAS.ti, 
enriching the study. PDs can be grouped together 
in cases, and memos and codes grouped themati- 
cally, facilitating within- and across-case analysis. 
Codes are not linked to any other code until the 
researcher specifically creates the relationship, dif- 
fering from many software where hierarchical 
relationships between codes are encouraged. Codes 
and themes can be easily interrogated in ATLAS.ti, 
enhancing analysis and the construction of theory. 

B. Raewyn Bassett 

See also Inductivism; Iterative; Reliability; Visual 
Research Methods; Within-Case Analysis 

Further Readings 

Lewins, A., & Silver, C. (2007). Using software in 

qualitative research: A step-by-step guide. London: Sage. 

Patel, V. N., & Riley, A. W. (2007). Linking data to 
decision-making: Applying qualitative data analysis 
methods and software to identify mechanisms for 
using outcomes data. Journal of Behavioural Health 
Services & Research, 34, 459-474. 

Computer-Based Analysis of 
Qualitative Data: CAITA 
( Computer- Assisted 
Interpretive Textual Analysis) 

Computer-assisted qualitative data analysis uses 
computer hardware and software to support 
qualitative data analysis tasks, including search 
and recovery of data, representation of data, sum- 
marizing and interpretation of themes, and explo- 
ration of meanings and patterns found in data. 
Qualitative data are primarily textual data, for 
example, newspaper articles, organizational docu- 
ments, interview transcripts, and narratives. 
Computer-based analysis of qualitative data can 
involve two forms of analysis: Quantitative analy- 
sis of qualitative data uses computers to count key 
words or codes and is called computer-based con- 
tent analysis. Qualitative analysis of qualitative 
data uses nonmathematical processes to explore 
data. One specific approach to qualitative analysis 
of qualitative data is computer-assisted interpre- 
tive textual analysis, which explores members' 
meanings in qualitative data through theoretical 
sampling, computer software, and expansion 
analysis of data displays. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Quantitative analysis of qualitative data uses com- 
puter technology to quantify qualitative data and 
to perform content analysis. Computer-based con- 
tent analysis of qualitative data involves breaking 
textual data down into segments, then coding or 
classifying each segment. Researchers then use 
computer technology to count key words or codes 
and to compose operational indicators of vari- 
ables. The quantitative measures are used to test or 
evaluate hypotheses. This reflects a positivistic 
paradigm where quantitative variables are created 
and relations among variables are used in a deduc- 
tive manner to test or confirm theory. 

The second form of computer-based analysis of 
qualitative data uses qualitative analysis involving 
nonmathematical processes of interpretation to 
understand the meanings or patterns in qualitative 
data. The central task of qualitative analysis is to 
understand the meaning of the text (i.e., qualitative 

Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative Data: CAITA (Computer-Assisted Interpretive Textual Analysis) 185 

data). The process is often inductive and not well 
structured. Computer technology cannot "do" 
qualitative analysis of data for researchers because 
the process is not algorithmic or mechanical and 
cannot be computerized. Computers do routine, 
clerical tasks and assist in data storage, searching, 
and display of patterns in data. But the researcher 
must interpret data. 

Computer technology can assist in qualitative 
analysis of qualitative data by facilitating basic 
tasks of qualitative research, including making 
notes, editing notes and data, coding data, storing 
data, searching and retrieving particular segments 
of data, linking data, creating memos about data, 
and linking these memos to data segments. Software 
can generate data displays that place selected or 
retrieved data in condensed or organized formats, 
and it can help map data graphically. Software can 
also help researchers draw conclusions, build the- 
ory, and write reports. This assistance is done by 
simplification of routine tasks of data management 
and creation of data displays to help reveal or con- 
firm patterns in data. 

Computer-assisted interpretive textual analysis 
(CAITA) is a specific form of computer-based 
qualitative analysis that seeks to understand the 
meaning qualitative data hold for social actors and 
to develop "second-order" theory that builds on 
or subsumes members' "first-order" theories. The 
focus is thus on induction or theory building from 
data. Second-order theory development involves 
recovering themes and meanings from data, pro- 
viding thick descriptions of how concepts operate 
in data, and grounding theory in data. 

CAITA uses computers to create textual data- 
bases, to do mechanical and clerical tasks related 
to data coding and retrieval, to support theoretical 
sampling, and to create data displays for expansion 
analysis. These processes are elaborated below. 

A first task in CAITA is to select data that pro- 
vide a meaningful corpus or body of information 
about a phenomenon. Such data may be consti- 
tuted by an interview or set of interviews, a docu- 
ment such as an organizational report, a series of 
newspaper articles on a particular topic or inci- 
dent, the transcript of a public hearing, or a com- 
bination of such data. The next task is to create a 
textual database of the data. This simply means 
creating a machine-readable electronic data file, 
one often formatted for specialized software, that 

can be subjected to qualitative analysis processes 
including search and retrieval processes and cod- 
ing processes. 

A more explicit focus for research is then devel- 
oped. Through reflection, induction, coding of 
data, or grounded theory the researcher surfaces 
important themes and issues found in data that are 
conceptually meaningful. Generally, qualitative 
data are "coded" by adding tags or labels that can 
be electronically linked to particular segments of 
the textual data base. In CAITA, the researcher 
focuses on locating key words that occur naturally 
in the text and act as naturally occurring "tags" or 
codes that indicate themes present in data. Once 
data are coded, or key words noted, key data pas- 
sages can be located and interpreted in detail. Data 
can also be used to ensure that emerging themes 
and concepts are accurately represented by data. 

Data displays are then created using computer 
software to produce organized, formatted tables 
that assemble all examples of key concepts at work 
in the database. These data displays or tables are 
interpreted using expansion analysis — a fine- 
grained, hermeneutic process for writing descrip- 
tions of how contextual and conceptual features of 
interest operate in data segments. This analysis 
links members' discourse, theories, and concepts 
to more abstract discourse, theories, and concepts 
of scholars and thereby inductively creates second- 
order understandings of members' first-order dis- 
course or text. 


An example of CAITA is provided by a case study 
done by Robert P. Gephart, Jr., that explored sen- 
semaking during a public hearing into a fatal acci- 
dent. The accident involved a leak from an oil and 
gas pipeline that unexpectedly caught fire and 
burned five men, two of whom subsequently died. 

The researcher was familiar with industry oper- 
ations and attended a public hearing concerning 
the accident. Sensemaking became the general 
focus for the case study since inquiry documents 
and testimony by organizational stakeholders 
sought to understand and interpret the causes and 
implications of the event, that is, to "make sense" 
of the accident. 

The researcher obtained a detailed record of all 
testimony at the hearing, made field notes of 

186 Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative Data: Kwalitan 

inquiry events, and obtained inquiry board policies 
and reports, company documents, and newspaper 
articles concerning the accident and the inquiry. A 
textual database was created for these data with 
particular focus on the 1,765-page record of hear- 
ing testimony. The database software provided 
an index of all words used and offered search, 
retrieval, and data display functions for all words 
used. In addition, structural reference codes entered 
into the database allowed search, retrieval, and 
display of text in terms of speaker, position, orga- 
nization, and other important issues. 

Careful reflection on the data revealed themes 
including a focus on why the company failed to 
"flare" or voluntarily ignite the leak to prevent an 
unplanned fire. Flaring became a key word. A 
theoretically meaningful sample of testimony was 
developed by search and retrieval of all discussions 
of flaring for key groups at the inquiry: manage- 
ment, workers, and the hearing board. Key issues 
related to flaring were sensemaking, risk, responsi- 
bility, and blame for the decision to avoid flaring. 

Two types of data display were created. Textual 
exhibits were detailed segments of data that narrate 
the disaster and inquiry and focus on flaring. Textual 
tables were developed containing each line in which 
a key word occurred in relation to key themes of 
risk, responsibility, and blame for flaring. 

Expansion analysis was written for each data 
display to show how theoretical concepts operated 
in data. Sensemaking concepts were employed to 
understand how risk, responsibility, and blame were 
used to explain organizational actions. Propositions 
concerning sensemaking during public inquiries 
were inductively developed to reflect patterns in 
data and generalize the case to other settings. 

Critical Summary 

Computer technology does not enact qualitative 
analysis of qualitative data but it can greatly aid 
such analysis. The common expectation that com- 
puters can do qualitative analysis can foster three 
problems. First, researchers may be so focused on 
software they fail to learn or use basic qualitative 
research practices. Second, the ease of computer 
processes such as search and display or counting of 
key words may distract researchers from careful 
interpretation of data. Third, conceptual assump- 
tions and operations of software may constrain the 

kinds of analysis performed on data. Alternatively, 
qualitative researchers may avoid using computers 
in analysis since they believe computers distort 
data and interpretations. CAITA can support rou- 
tine and clerical tasks all qualitative researchers 
employ. It can also help exhaustively analyze case 
study data and display significant variations within 
data. Awareness of the limitations and strengths of 
qualitative computing can help researchers realize 
the significant advantages of the approach. 

Robert P. Gephart, Jr. 

See also Grounded Theory; Inductivism 

Further Readings 

Gephart, R. P., Jr. (1993). The textual approach: Risk 
and blame in disaster sensemaking. Academy of 
Management journal, 6, 1465-1514. 

Kabanoff, B. (Guest ed.). (1997). Computers can read as 
well as count: Computer-aided text analysis in 
organizational research [Special issue]. Journal of 
Organizational Behavior, 18, 507-664. 

Kelle, U. (1995). Introduction. In U. Kelle (Ed.), 

Computer-aided qualitative data analysis (pp. 1-17). 
London: Sage. 

Weitzman, E. A. (2000). Software and qualitative 

research. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The 
handbook of qualitative research (2nd ed., 
pp. 803-820). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Computer-Based Analysis of 
Qualitative Data: Kwalitan 

The computer program Kwalitan, which runs on 
PC/Windows, originated in the late 1980s, when it 
was designed at the University of Nijmegen, the 
Netherlands, as a support tool for students and 
researchers who were engaged in doing qualitative 
analyses in the tradition of the grounded theory 
approach. In the past years Kwalitan has under- 
gone several metamorphoses that have resulted 
in a new version of the program in which user 
requests have been incorporated as much as pos- 
sible. While Kwalitan was developed from the 
perspective of the grounded theory approach, 
most of the functions in Kwalitan are so basic and 

Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative Data: Kwalitan 187 

generic that Kwalitan can also be used when ana- 
lyzing qualitative material using other approaches. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

It is becoming inconceivable to perform a qualita- 
tive analysis without the use of a computer, espe- 
cially when having to deal with qualitative material 
from various sources, as in many case studies. 
Doing a qualitative analysis implies that a 
researcher discovers relevant aspects in the mate- 
rial, processes these aspects on a conceptual level, 
checks the results of this conceptualization against 
the original material, and makes comparisons 
between documents/cases. And this process is iter- 
ated many times before the researcher is con- 
vinced that he or she has captured the content of 
the empirical material sufficiently on the concep- 
tual level. 

In other words, the researcher must constantly 
switch between the empirical level of the (raw) 
material and the conceptual level. During this pro- 
cess several techniques are applied, such as several 
types of coding, summarizing, rephrasing, cluster- 
ing, categorizing, searching for underlying dimen- 
sions, and pattern recognition. These activities can 
be compared to quantitative techniques such as 
cluster analysis, factor analysis, or regression 
analysis, but at a conceptual level, without statis- 
tics to help the researcher in interpreting and mak- 
ing decisions. Most researchers would not consider 
doing these quantitative techniques without the 
use of appropriate computer support. In the same 
way, in the case of qualitative analysis, where these 
analytical processes take place in the minds of the 
researcher, computer support is indispensable. 

Several computer programs have been devel- 
oped to support the researcher in doing these types 
of qualitative procedures. Some of these programs 
are described and illustrated in this encyclopedia. 
This contribution focuses on one of these com- 
puter programs, Kwalitan. 

The Organization of the Data in Kwalitan 

All original data that have to be analyzed (inter- 
views, documents, observation protocols) and all 
data that are generated by the researcher during the 
analysis process (e.g., memos, codes, word lists) are 
stored in one single file, referred to as the project. 

Inside the project, the data are ordered in work files 
(for different groups of respondents or for different 
types of data), documents (the interviews or the 
observation protocols), and segments. 

The text of documents is divided into segments 
(before or during the analysis) by the researcher. A 
segment is a part of the text that logically belongs 
together, like a question and its answer, or a para- 
graph in a document. These segments have several 
functions during the analysis. To mention two of 
them: They help the researcher to focus on specific 
parts in the text, and they function as the coding 
context — that is, during the coding process they 
provide the context for interpreting a specific text 

Above it was mentioned that Kwalitan deals 
with text-based data. In addition, it is also possible 
to have graphic input (e.g., pictures, political car- 
toons, art objects) and (short) audio or video frag- 
ments as material to be analyzed. 

This entry describes some of the features and 
functions of Kwalitan. It relates them to some of 
the basic characteristics of qualitative analysis. For 
a more extended description of Kwalitan, for 
details about its functions, and for the technical 
details, readers are referred to the Kwalitan Web 
site: (Dutch) or www.kwalitan 
.nl/engels/index.html (English). 

Levels of Analysis in Qualitative Analysis 

Qualitative analysis is about making inferences 
on the conceptual level, based on empirical data. 
This process is steered by research questions. 
In order to answer the research questions, the 
researcher may use data and information at differ- 
ent levels: 

• The words as spoken in the interview or written 
in the documents; these data coincide with the 
empirical level 

• The codes devised and applied by the researcher 
and indicating his or her interpretation of the 
raw data 

• The concepts developed by the researcher based 
on the codes and capturing central themes and 

• The reflections of the researcher on the material, 
the codes, the concepts, and the process, as 
written down in memos 

Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative Data: Kwalitan 





Answers to 

-f Levels of analysis J- 



word list/themes 
words in context 



text fragments 

tree structure 







Figure I Four levels of data in the qualitative analysis process 

Source: Peters, V., &c Wester, F. (2007). How qualitative software may support the qualitative analysis process. Quality & 
Quantity, 41, 635-659. With kind permission of Springer Science and Business Media. 

At each of these levels, specific tools and func- 
tions are required to support the researcher. Figure 
1 summarizes the broad outline of a qualitative 
analysis, shows the four levels of data to be used in 
the analysis, and indicates a few of the tools. 

Kwalitan offers support at all four levels of 
analysis. These functions are briefly discussed in 
the next section. 

Functions of Kwalitan 

The Level of Words 

Analyzing material at the level of words stays very 
close by the empirical level, since it deals with raw, 
noninterpreted material. Content analysis focuses on 
this level, but also for other types of qualitative 
analysis investigating the original data may help the 
researcher to become familiar with the material, 
identify the specific terms that the respondents use; 
in addition, it may reveal differences between several 
documents. This investigation may help the researcher 
to formulate new research questions. 

Kwalitan supports the analysis at this level by 
providing overviews of the words used, composing 
lists of important words to be used to compare 
documents, computing concordances between 
words, and displaying specific words in their 
(direct) context (key word in context). 

The Level of Codes 

Codes are the basic elements for many analy- 
ses. Codes (also referred to as key words) cap- 
ture the researcher's interpretation of the text. 
They come in many types, depending on the 
phase of the analysis: they may refer directly to 
elements in the texts, to underlying concepts or 
dimensions, or to patterns. Codes make a con- 
nection between the conceptual level and the 
empirical level. Their function is on the one 
hand that they help the researcher in conceptu- 
alizing, and on the other hand they provide a 
means for retrieving data that are related to a 
specific concept. 

Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative Data: Kwalitan 189 

Kwalitan has several functions that help in ana- 
lyzing at the level of words: 

• Overviews of codes, indicating which codes 
occur and in what frequency 

• Overviews of text fragments that are linked to 
specific codes 

• Matrices of codes, displaying which codes occur 
in which segments or documents 

• Matrices of concordance, indicating which codes 
occur in the same segment 

Both types of matrices can be exported to an 
Excel spreadsheet or an SPSS data file for further 

The Level of Concepts 

In the process of conceptualizing, the researcher 
tries to create a conceptual model of the object 
under study. This implies discovering the relevant 
concepts and investigating the relation between 
these concepts by identifying relevant themes, 
dimensions, or categories that underlie the indi- 
vidual codes, and the relationships between the 
categories and concepts. To support these actions 
Kwalitan has three tools: 

• Categories: codes that refer to the same 
underlying concept or theme are brought 
together in categories 

• Hierarchic tree structure: codes, words, and 
other terms are ordered in a hierarchic tree, 
unveiling the complex structure of concepts 

• Tables: to summarize what is said in specific 
documents about a selection of relevant themes 
to help clarify the concepts further 

These tools can be used in either a bottom-up or a 
top-down way. 

The Level of Memos 

The use of memos is stressed by practically all 
method books on qualitative analysis. Kwalitan 
supports the use of memos. It offers the possibility 
to create several types of memos (default types are 
the concept memos, profile memos, theory memos, 
and method memos). These memos are easily 
accessible from all parts of the program, so that 
the researcher has them always at hand and can 
always add new information. 

Memos are important for storing information, 
but they may also be considered as the object of 
analysis. The researcher used memos for writing 
the results of his or her reflection on the steps and 
procedures in the analysis; memos are reflections 
on interpretations and actions. Analyzing one's 
own memos and their reconceptualization may 
be very helpful in gaining insight into the data and 
the results of the analysis. Kwalitan supports the 
analysis of memos. 

In addition to the functions mentioned, Kwalitan 
has many functions that support the researcher in 
setting up projects, maintaining the data, making 
backups, and other features that are necessary to 
run a qualitative research project. 

Critical Summary 

Computer programs like Kwalitan are indispens- 
able for qualitative analysis. The complexity of 
this type of analysis requires support by a special- 
ized set of tools, provided by, among others, 
Kwalitan. However, Kwalitan and other computer 
programs remain only tools. Of paramount impor- 
tance in addition to computer support is a thor- 
ough knowledge of qualitative methodology and 
its procedures. What good is a tool if you do not 
know what to use the tool for? 

The fundamental problems encountered by qual- 
itative researchers are not in the realm of dealing 
with computer programs (most are very user 
friendly), but rather in the methodological back- 
ground of the analyses. Devising powerful codes, 
transforming one's initial codes to a more abstract 
level, using categories properly, and writing good 
accounts in one's memos requires much more 
thought and effort than questions like where to find 
and how to deal with codes, categories, or memos 
in the program. Practice shows, however, that many 
(beginning) researchers are concerned about whether 
they should use a computer program for support, 
and which program will be the best (or the easiest 
to handle, or the cheapest). Kwalitan is designed as 
a supportive program; it is not prescriptive concern- 
ing the steps to follow. In fact, that is one of the 
strengths of Kwalitan (and comparable programs), 
since it can be applied in a variety of research tradi- 
tions. But this also implies that the user should have 
clear ideas about how to conduct the analysis, and 
that is why methodological knowledge is even more 

190 Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative Data: MAXQDA 2007 

indispensable than a program for computer-based 
analysis of qualitative data. 

Vincent Peters 

See also Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative Data: 
ATLAS. ti; Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative 
Data: CAITA (Computer-Assisted Interpretive Textual 
Analysis); Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative 
Data: MAXQDA 2007; Computer-Based Analysis of 
Qualitative Data: NVIVO; Textual Analysis 

Further Readings 

CAQDAS Networking Project: Computer-assisted 

qualitative data analysis: 
Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (2008). Basics of qualitative 

research (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 
Peters, V., & Wester, F. (2007). How qualitative software 

may support the qualitative analysis process. Quality 

& Quantity, 41, 635-659. 
Wester, F., & Peters, V. (2003). Kwalitatieve analyse. 

Uitgangspunten en procedures [Qualitative analysis: 

Principles and procedures]. Bussum, the Netherlands: 


Computer-Based Analysis 
of Qualitative Data: 
MAXQDA 2007 

Computer-assisted qualitative data analysis 
(CAQDAS) software has become more common in 
recent years, with various programs available. 
Such software programs differ in ways such as the 
types of data that can be analyzed, how data are 
coded and managed, and how results are presented 
visually. Because each program has distinctive fea- 
tures, some researchers have argued it is difficult to 
declare any one software program superior to oth- 
ers. Rather, what software to use will depend on 
researchers' specific needs and goals. MAXQDA 
2007 is the most recent version of a program called 
MAXQDA ("MAX" named after Max Weber, the 
famous German sociologist; "QDA" stands for 
qualitative data analysis). This software program 
is for PC/Windows computers and is appropriate 
for textually based case study research. It provides 
a means of organizing multiple data sources into 

one file and offers multiple ways to analyze and 
manage data. This entry focuses on describing the 
main features of the program. Various screen shots 
of the program can be seen at MAXQDA's Web 
site ( . 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

MAXQDA 2007 saves all study documents into a 
file called a "project." In a project, all files are 
combined into one data file with the file extension 
".mx3." To begin a project, a file name is entered 
and saved in the desired location, and then all rel- 
evant study documents are imported into the proj- 
ect. This system design is described as an "internal 
database" because all documents are kept together 
within the program, as compared to an "external 
database" in which a program connects to data 
files located outside of its software. 

Documents imported into MAXQDA are text 
based and must be saved in rich text format (file exten- 
sion of ".rtf"). If an object such as a bitmap picture is 
embedded in a text file, it will be seen only if a specific 
option in the software is chosen prior to importing the 
file. However, MAXQDA's coding capabilities of non- 
text-based objects is limited (ATLAS.ti can analyze 
data in graphic or pictorial format). 

Once a project's name is saved, the MAXQDA 
screen appears, with four windows on the screen. 
The four windows are the program's default inter- 
face; however, any window can be closed and 
reopened when desired. The upper left quadrant is 
called the document system. This window shows 
the files that have been imported into a project. 
Given that case study research can involve multiple 
data sources to analyze a unit of analysis, this sys- 
tem may be particularly helpful because different 
categories of files, called text groups, can be cre- 
ated. For example, there may be a section or text 
group for in-depth interviews, another text group 
for newspaper archives, and a third text group for 
an organization's internal documents. 

The upper right-hand quadrant is called the text 
browser. The text browser shows one text file or 
document (e.g., a transcript) at a time. In this win- 
dow, codes and memos are attached to segments of 
text. The text can also be edited if necessary (note: 
changes made anywhere in the program are auto- 
matically saved). A text file is opened by going to 
the document system window and right-clicking on 

Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative Data: MAXQDA 2007 191 

its name. Right-clicking opens up a new window, 
and choosing "open text" results in the text appear- 
ing in the text browser window. Within this win- 
dow, two empty columns will appear to the left of 
the text. One column is for assigning codes to text 
segments; the other column is for creating memos. 

MAXQDA provides several ways to create and 
assign codes, which are strings up to 64 characters 
long (e.g., for a study on caregiving, initial codes 
might be "withdrawing from friends," "having 
difficulty sleeping," or "leaving work early"). Such 
codes form the basis for eventual categorization 
and conceptualization. The assigning of codes to 
segments takes place in the text browser window, 
but codes may be created in both the text browser 
window and/or the code system window, which is 
located in the bottom left quadrant of the screen. 

A benefit of MAXQDA is that the coding sys- 
tem and text currently being coded can be viewed 
at the same time. All codes are listed and main- 
tained in the code system window. As with any 
software program, it is important to note that 
codes are created by the researcher rather than 
automatically created by the software. Coding can 
be hierarchical; MAXQDA allows for up to 10 
levels to be created, thus codes can have subcodes 
within them. In addition, once developed, codes 
can be deleted, changed, and moved around within 
the code system window. 

Different colors can be assigned to codes. Colors 
are chosen in ways that are meaningful to the 
study. For example, if data have been collected in 
focus group interviews, different colors can iden- 
tify different people speaking. Similarly, assorted 
colored codes may represent diverse emotions or 
actions. Patterns of colored coding may be ana- 
lyzed later with MAXQDA's visual tools, such as 
TextPortraits or the Code Sequence Viewer. 

As previously mentioned, a column in the text 
browser window is available for creating memos, 
which are attached to coded segments. Memos can 
also be created in the document system window 
(attached to a document) and code system window 
(attached to a code). The development of a research- 
er's thoughts about issues such as method, catego- 
rization, and theorization can be captured in these 
memos, which form the basis for formal research 
reports. Right-clicking in a memo column where 
the memo is to be placed opens up a window in 
which the memo is then written. Memos can be up 
to 32 pages long, and options include giving it a 

specific name, identifying the author of the memo, 
linking the memo to specific codes, and dating the 
memo. In addition, coded segments can be copied 
and pasted into the memo. Memos are identified in 
the project by small yellow "Post-it note" symbols. 
After a memo is created, it can be revised or devel- 
oped further by right-clicking to reopen it. Simply 
holding the computer's mouse over a memo sym- 
bol also brings up the memo's information. 

The final window, located in the bottom right 
quadrant, is the retrieved segments window. In this 
window, coded segments can be compared to each 
other. To view coded segments, a simple procedure 
of activation is followed. Activation tells the pro- 
gram what codes to examine and from which text 
files. This process occurs by right-clicking on a text 
file(s) and a code(s) and choosing "activate" for 
each one. After activation, all coded segments for 
the specified codes and text files appear in the 
retrieved segments window. This window is instru- 
mental for the constant comparison technique, in 
which multiple indicators of a code are compared 
to each other to make sure they represent the same 
concept. Coding consistency can also be checked 
by comparing coded segments from one code to 
coded segments for another code. 

Additional features assist with descriptive coding, 
content analysis, data management, printing, visual 
data representation, and teamwork. For example, 
with the attributes function, descriptive coding is 
entered in a matrix, and then text files can be acti- 
vated and analyzed on the basis of certain attributes 
(e.g., gender, geographical location). The attributes 
matrix can also be exported into SPSS (Statistical 
Package for the Social Sciences). Content analysis is 
performed with the lexical search function. Memos 
are managed in the memo manager and can be 
exported out of the program. Coded transcripts can 
be printed with their coding identified to the left of 
the text. Graphical model building occurs with 
MAXMAPS. Finally, a recent advancement is 
MAXQDA Reader, a free software program that 
allows researchers who do not have the software 
program to view a project (but not edit it). This is 
particularly helpful when only some members of a 
research team have access to the software. 

Critical Summary 

Advancements in CAQDAS software have changed 
how case study analysis can be conducted, and 

192 Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative Data: NVIVO 

multiple options are available in a variety of soft- 
ware programs. MAXQDA 2007's user interface 
results in easy organization of and access to multiple 
textually based data sources. This program also has 
numerous options for finely tuned coding, data 
management, visual data analysis, and visual presen- 
tation of findings. 

Aine M. Humble 

See also Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative Data: 
ATLAS. ti; Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative 
Data: CAITA (Computer-Assisted Interpretive Textual 
Analysis); Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative 
Data: Kwalitan; Computer-Based Analysis of 
Qualitative Data: NVIVO; Textual Analysis 

Further Readings 

CAQDAS Networking Project: Computer-assisted 
qualitative data analysis: http://caqdas.soc 

Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (2008). Basics of qualitative 
research (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Lewins, A., & Silver, C. (2007). Using software in 
qualitative research: A step-by-step guide. Thousand 
Oaks, CA: Sage. 


Richards, L., & Morse, J. M. (2007). Readme first for a 
user's guide to qualitative methods (2nd ed.). 
Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Wickham, M., & Woods, M. (2005). Reflecting on the 
strategic use of CAQDAS to manage and report on 
the qualitative research process. Qualitative Report, 
10(4), 687-702. Retrieved March 25, 2008, from 

Computer-Based Analysis of 
Qualitative Data: NVIVO 

NVIVO is one of a number of software programs 
available for the organization, management, and 
analysis of text, image, and audio data. Data can 
be transcribed, coded, searched, and retrieved in 
the software. Memos, cases, attributes, matrices, 
charts, and models of data can be created during 
the analysis process, providing a number of useful 
functions for case study research. It works on a 
PC/Windows platform. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

The NVIVO workspace is organized into three 
views. The navigation view allows access to all 
components of the project. The list view provides 
a list of folders obtained by clicking on a specific 
button in navigation view. Clicking on a folder 
provides a list of items within that folder. Clicking 
on an item within a folder presents the item con- 
tent in detail view, where it can be explored and 

NVIVO facilitates the use of a variety of data 
sources including text documents, portable docu- 
ment format (.pdf), and audio, video, and image 
files. Upon import, a wave file is assigned to each 
audio and video file. Audio and video can be tran- 
scribed after import or an existing transcript can 
be imported and assigned to the audio or video 
source. Time codes corresponding to the wave file 
may be applied to the transcript. 

Data sources are coded to nodes. A node repre- 
sents and bears the label of a code, category, or 
concept, and includes the relevant references to the 
document source(s). A number of different node 
options exist in NVIVO. Free nodes stand alone; 
tree nodes are hierarchically linked codes, concepts, 
and categories; case nodes group data by specific 
entities or cases such as individuals or organizations; 
and relationships connect items in the case study. 
Free and tree nodes may include in vivo nodes 
where the label applied to the node(s) is derived 
from the words of case study participants. Relevant 
characteristics or attributes such as age, gender, and 
income can be assigned to case nodes for compari- 
son and contrast within and/or across cases. 

Data are assigned to nodes by coding conceptu- 
ally similar selections of text together. Coding can 
be done manually, by highlighting text, or by 
framing an image or a time segment of an audio/ 
video wave file and assigning it to a node. Coding 
can be automated using paragraph numbers in text 
documents, time codes of audio files, the log rows 
of a photograph, and/or Microsoft Word heading 
styles in text documents. A further coding method, 
text search, automatically retrieves and codes spe- 
cific strings of characters in text documents. 

"Scribblings in the margin" and comments on 
emerging concepts are captured in annotations and 
memos. Specific text selections in a document can 
be annotated. Blue highlight in the document 

Computer-Based Analysis of Qualitative Data: NVIVO 193 

denotes the annotated text selection. Intended as 
brief notes, annotations may be read, edited, 
deleted, and/or reviewed. Memos can be created in 
the software, or in a word processor and imported 
into NVIVO. Larger than annotations, memos 
may capture emerging thoughts about concepts 
and theories, comment on specific documents or 
cases, and explain or comment on the use of the 
software or research methods. Memos stand alone 
or can be linked to the data and nodes to which 
they apply. 

Within- and across-case analyses are facilitated 
in NVIVO with a variety of search and retrieval 
tools called queries, enabling the researcher to ask 
questions, or to test hunches or emerging theory. 
Queries include Boolean (and, or, not) and proxim- 
ity (near, preceding, surrounding) searches. They 
can be previewed to scope the retrieval prior to sav- 
ing the results, or can be retrieved as a node that, 
except for matrix queries, can be further coded 
and/or searched. Coding queries search and retrieve 
all coding at a node or all data assigned to a spe- 
cific attribute. A more complex coding query will 
retrieve data coded to multiple nodes and/or by 
multiple attributes. A matrix coding query provides 
a paired comparison of multiple nodes and/or attri- 
butes as a numeric table. Clicking on any cell in the 
table retrieves the text, visual, and/or audio data 
from which the numeral was derived. Visual cues 
to patterns in the data may emerge in a matrix cod- 
ing query table. A compound query retrieves a 
specific string of characters (words, phrases) and 
coding to nodes, combining two types of search 
and retrieval, text search and coding queries. The 
coder comparison query measures the consistency 
of multiple team members' coding by paired com- 
parison across some or all nodes and/or source 
data. A Kappa coefficient and/or percentage agree- 
ment score between pairs of coders is derived. 

Visually displayed data in case study analysis 
encourage reflection and focus on specific aspects 
of one or more cases. A check of hunches and 
theories, clarification of the analysis, pattern iden- 
tification, and presentation of the study to an audi- 
ence are also facilitated by visual displays. Data 
display tools in NVIVO include models, charts, 
and coding stripes that can be printed and/or 
exported. A model is a semantic map of all or part 
of the case study. Items such as nodes and docu- 
ments from the project can be imported into the 

modeling tool, and/or new items created by drag- 
ging and dropping shapes into the model and 
labeling them. Models may be static or dynamic, 
the latter changing with any related change in the 
analysis. Links between items are constructed in 
the analysis process, for example, hierarchically 
linked nodes or relationship links. The chart tool 
provides a visual overview of the analysis in bar 
graphs and pie, bubble, and radar charts. Coding, 
nodes, cases, attributes, and matrix queries can be 
charted. Coding stripes display coded source data, 
useful for tracking coding as it is done and for 
sharing and discussing coding among team mem- 
bers. Stripes of solid color represent different 
nodes and provide an overview of the intensity of 
coding at any selection in the data source. Where 
two data sources occur side by side in detail view, 
such as an audio wave file and its transcript, both 
a solid and a shadow coding display are provided. 
Solid colored coding stripes denote coding in the 
specific data source, such as the wave file, while 
shaded coding stripes denote coding in the second 
data source, for example, the transcript. A further 
stripe for coding density sits adjacent to the data 
source. Gradations from white to gray to black 
indicate none through to large amounts of coding 
at any point in the data source. Coding stripes can 
be shared in hard copy among team members. 

NVIVO provides an audit trail of the case study 
project with the use of summaries that can be 
exported and/or printed from the software. A project 
summary provides a numerical count of all folders 
and items in the project, as well as when each item 
was created and modified, and by whom. A source 
summary gives a numerical coding count from each 
source document, and the size of the document in 
words, paragraphs, time segments, or dimensions. A 
node summary provides definitions of nodes written 
by the researcher, and for each node, a table with type 
of source, percentage of source document, duration 
(audio), rows (images), and words and paragraphs 
(text documents) coded. Summaries of relationships, 
attributes, and coding can also be derived from the 
software. Regular use of such summaries provides an 
audit trail of the case study project. 


Christine Jakobsen and William McLaughlin use 
an early version of NVIVO software to organize, 

1 94 Concatenated Theory 

manage, and code interview transcripts from their 
single case study examining cross-disciplinary inte- 
gration processes in the Interior Columbia Basin 
Ecosystem Management Project. Although video 
data collected by the researchers could not be 
included in the version of NVIVO they used, with 
the recent update of the software, video can now 
be coded alongside other data sources. The 
researchers applied an iterative and inductive cod- 
ing process. Pattern coding followed descriptive 
coding to thematically cluster codes. Codes were 
defined to increase coder consistency. Peer debrief- 
ing and member checking increased analytic reli- 
ability. Memos were used to reflect on emerging 
concepts and research processes. All facets of the 
analysis could be traced back from queries, memos, 
and nodes to data sources in the software. 

Critical Summary 

NVIVO is an organizational and analysis tool for 
case study research. Hierarchical tree nodes group 
related codes; free nodes encourage exploration 
of stand-alone codes. Case nodes reference case 
data, and attributes describe case characteristics. 
Case nodes and attributes facilitate within- and 
cross-case comparisons using the query tools, and 
visual displays such as matrices and models pro- 
vide an overview, as well as potential analytic 

B. Raewyn Bassett 

See also Cognitive Mapping; Content Analysis; 

Conversation Analysis; Interpreting Results; Iterative; 
Visual Research Methods 

Further Readings 

Jakobsen, C. H., & McLaughlin, W. J. (2004). 

Communication in ecosystem management: A case 
study of cross-disciplinary integration in the 
assessment of the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem 
Management Project. Environmental Management, 
33, 591-605. 

Morse, J., & Richards, L. (2002). Readme first for a 
user's guide to qualitative methods. Thousand Oaks, 
CA: Sage. 

Richards, L. (2005). Handling qualitative data: A 
practical guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Concatenated Theory 

Concatenation is, at once, a longitudinal research 
process and the resulting set of field studies that are 
linked together, as it were, in a chain, leading to 
cumulative, often formal, grounded theory. Studies 
near the beginning of the chain are wholly or dom- 
inantly exploratory in scope. Each study, or link, in 
the chain examines or at times reexamines a related 
group, activity, or social process or aspect of a 
broader category of groups or social processes. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

An enduring criticism of the case study as a social 
scientific method is its limited capacity for general- 
izing findings. It is argued that, in a single case, 
insufficient variety exists from which to form valid 
generalizations. True, some case studies are not 
intended to be generalized. An analysis of an 
important author, politician, community, environ- 
mental disaster, or scientific advance, for example, 
could be mounted for no other reason than to 
understand the subject of investigation. Here, gen- 
eralizing beyond the case is of little interest. 

Meanwhile, other case studies are conceived of 
as vehicles for generalization. A main goal of these 
studies is, through well-designed, in-depth analysis, 
either to discover a set of tentative generalizations 
about heretofore unstudied phenomena or to help 
validate tentative generalizations established in ear- 
lier exploratory research. Whichever goal, the 
problem remains the same: Concatenated research 
is required to fully validate emergent generaliza- 
tions and their coalescence into grounded theory. 

Where this metaphor of a chain of studies 
becomes inadequate is in its failure to suggest the 
accretive nature of properly executed, concatenated 
exploration. In the metaphor of the chain, each 
link is equally important. Whereas in scientific con- 
catenation the studies in the chain are not only 
linked, they are also predicated on one another. 
That is, later studies are guided, in significant mea- 
sure, by what was found in earlier research in the 
same area as well as by the methods used and the 
samples examined there. Thus each link plays a 
somewhat different part in the growing body of 
research and in the emerging grounded theory. 
Furthermore, the earlier studies only guide later 

Concatenated Theory 195 

exploration; they do not control it to the point 
where discovery is constrained by preconceptions. 

A long-standing problem in case study research, 
which it shares with other exploratory methods 
designed to beget generalizations, is that concate- 
nation only rarely occurs, or if it occurs, the pro- 
cess stops long before completion. There are 
several reasons for this failure, one of the most 
important being that neither the idea of concatena- 
tion nor its necessity is well understood among 
exploratory researchers. The term itself, by which 
awareness of the process and its importance might 
be raised, is of relatively recent origin, dating to a 
1992 paper by Robert A. Stebbins. 

It may be said for case studies, as well as other 
discovery methodologies, that enthusiasm among 
social scientists for concatenated exploration 
remains as weak today as it was in 1976 when 
John Lofland wrote that qualitative researchers 
have published relatively little about how their 
inquiries might cumulate or be consolidated into 
larger wholes. Instead, each of their studies tends 
to be an individual picture standing more or less 
alone. He noted that each is informed by a shared 
perspective, but not by any strict sense of specific 
contribution to a developing, clearly articulated 
theory. Part of the problem, Lofland concluded, 
was a dearth of studies that could be consolidated 
in this manner. Over 30 years later this lack is still 

Exceptions to this indictment do nonetheless 
exist and should be acknowledged to demonstrate 
that concatenated exploration is not only desirable 
but also possible. A collection of experiences in the 
field, edited by William B. Shaffir and Robert A. 
Stebbins, contains a small number of examples, 
each consisting of a short description with biblio- 
graphic references. Included here is Steven J. 
Taylor's concatenated work on persons with mental 
retardation, which rests, in part, on case studies. 


Retaining the open-endedness of inquiry as it 
evolves through the concatenation process is a 
central consideration, especially as the emergent 
grounded theory becomes, with each passing study, 
more refined, complex, and conceptually valid. For, 
in a way, that theory comes to act as a paradigm in 
itself, albeit one highly reflective of the samples 

studied to date. The trick is to ensure that the 
emerging concepts and generalizations are not, as 
long as the research approach is exploratory, treated 
as "givens," as truths no longer needing empirical 
revision and validation. That is, researchers work- 
ing toward the goal of concatenation in a particular 
area will still treat the generalizations that have 
come down to them from previous studies as tenta- 
tive, as something they would expect to find given 
certain conditions (these seem often to be demo- 
graphic), while remaining on the watch for new or 
contradictory findings from the present study. 

The same goes for the use of generic, or over- 
arching, concepts, which also gain clarity, breadth, 
and validity as concatenation continues. In fact, 
for both concepts and generalizations, this is the 
most effective way to ensure validity of explor- 
atory work, efforts to do so in individual studies 
being much less convincing. The concepts and gen- 
eralizations must be embraced tentatively; always 
considered subject to revision in the face of possi- 
ble observations warranting such change. 

Critical Summary 

Concatenation is a research process and the result- 
ing set of field studies that are linked together in 
a chain leading to cumulative, often formal, 
grounded theory. To the extent case studies are 
conceived of as vehicles for generalization, concat- 
enated research is required to fully validate emer- 
gent generalizations and their coalescence into 
grounded theory. Unfortunately, concatenation 
only rarely occurs, or if it occurs, the process stops 
long before completion. 

Robert A. Stebbins 

See also Comparative Case Study; Ethnography; 

Exploratory Case Study; Generalizability; Grounded 
Theory; Sensitizing Concepts 

Further Readings 

Lofland, J. A. (1976). Doing social life: The qualitative 
study of human interaction in natural settings. New 
York: Wiley. 

Shaffir, W. B., & Stebbins, R. A. (Eds.). (1991). 

Experiencing fieldwork: An inside view of qualitative 
research in the social sciences. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. 

196 Concept Mapping 

Stebbins, R. A. (1992). Concatenated exploration: Notes 

on a neglected type of longitudinal research. Quality 

& Quantity, 26, 435-442. 
Stebbins, R. A. (2001). Exploratory research in the social 

sciences (Qualitative Research Methods Series 48). 

Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 
Stebbins, R. A. (2006). Concatenated exploration: Aiding 

theoretic memory by planning well for the future. 

Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 35, 483-494. 

Concept Mapping 

Concept mapping is a technique for representing a 
set of concept meanings that are unique to a spe- 
cific subject. These concept meanings are pictori- 
ally arranged on a map that consists of a network 
of nodes and links. The concept meanings are 
placed in the nodes while words to describe the 
relationship between nodes are placed on the 
links. Joseph Novak defines a concept as a per- 
ceived regularity in events or objects designated by 
a label. A concept is a word, phrase, or term used 
to express an idea. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

The concept map is a tool that was developed in 
the 1970s by Cornell University professor Joseph 
Novak in his research course for organizing and 
representing knowledge. Concept maps allow their 
creators to identify visually what they know about 
a concept and how the ideas related to the concept 
are connected. The theoretical underpinnings for 
the tool are based on David Ausubel's assimilation 
of learning theory. This theory is based on the 
proposition that meaningful learning and recall 
take place through the assimilation of new con- 
cepts and ideas into what is already known by a 
learner, that is, into the conceptual framework that 
the learner already holds. Ausubel refers to this 
process as meaningful learning; new ideas or con- 
cepts are linked with previously acquired knowl- 
edge. One of the goals in the development of 
concept maps is to promote meaningful learning. 

Either an individual or a group of people can 
produce a concept map. Concept mapping can be 
done for several purposes: to generate ideas, to 
design a complex structure, to communicate 

complex ideas, to aid learning by explicitly inte- 
grating new and old knowledge, and to assess 
understanding or diagnose misunderstanding. The 
holistic visual representation of a concept and the 
fact that information can be presented in a quick 
and easy manner on one page are two of the 
advantages to concept mapping. Concept mapping 
is also a visual tool that can be used to explain and 
present a complex concept in fewer words than if 
text were used. 

Concept map construction requires a series of 
steps that lead to a visual representation of a per- 
son's knowledge and comprehension of a subject 
or concept. The process of developing a concept 
map has been compared to brainstorming. The 
"mapper" begins with a specific topic and then 
identifies all the key concepts that are related to 
the subject. The next step in the process is to place 
the concepts on the map. The concepts are por- 
trayed in text boxes, often referred to as nodes. 
The text boxes are linked together using lines. The 
lines can be labeled with words, propositions on 
the links that identify the relationship between two 
text boxes. Usually arrows are used to demon- 
strate the direction of the link. The mapmaker may 
find, as the map progresses, that not all of the con- 
cepts that were originally identified are relevant or 
connected to the subject matter. Concept maps can 
be drawn by hand or completed using a computer 
software program. 

Prior to developing a concept map, a choice 
must be made as to which type of map best 
matches the subject matter. Concept maps have 
been categorized and described in various ways in 
the literature. There are four basic types of concept 
maps. Hierarchical concept maps start with the 
most important information on the top and pres- 
ent information in a descending order of impor- 
tance. Spider maps start with the central theme in 
the center with subthemes and concepts shown as 
radiating outward from this center. These maps 
may depict both the hierarchy and the interrelated- 
ness of the concepts. Flowchart concept maps 
organize information in a linear fashion that repre- 
sents cause and effect. The systems concept map, 
the last basic type of concept map, organizes infor- 
mation linearly, and has inputs and outputs that 
differentiate it from a flowchart. There are also 
three specialized concept maps: pictorial or land- 
scape, multidimensional/3-D, and Mandala/ 

Concept Mapping 197 

Mandala. In the latter, information is presented 
within a series of interlocking geometric shapes. 

Sometimes concept maps are referred to as 
mind maps. The main difference between a con- 
cept map and mind map is that a mind map 
involves one main concept while a concept map 
may involve several concepts. 


A concept map is a visual tool that is used to 
design and communicate complex ideas and struc- 
tures. It is used for a brainstorming session wherein 
the creator writes down whatever he or she thinks 
is connected to the main idea. Concept maps also 
can be used as meaningful teaching and learning 
aids. Christina DeSimone, in a 2007 article, identi- 
fied three major uses of concept maps in postsec- 
ondary learning: the linking and organizing of 
ideas on paper, the mental construction of con- 
cepts, and the electronic construction and exchange 
of concept maps between students. Concept maps 
have been used in higher education since the 
1980s; they are now becoming an important teach- 
ing tool in other disciplines, such as medicine, sci- 
ence, and nursing. In addition, researchers find the 
concept map a helpful tool to assist with data man- 
agement, and businesses and governments find 
that it is a valuable tool for schematically repre- 
senting conceptual or procedural knowledge. 

In 2005, Ian Kinchin, Frans De-Leij, and David 
Hay investigated the use of concept mapping by 
undergraduate microbiology students to integrate 
course material and how the map could be used to 
evaluate course material. In a similar study in 
2008, Dario Torre, Barbara Daley, Tracy Stark- 
Schwetzer, Singh Siddartha, Jenny Petkova, and 
Monica Ziebert did a qualitative evaluation of 
medical students' learning when concept maps 
were used. Both sets of researchers found that 
there was support for using concept maps to assist 
in knowledge integration and critical thinking. 

In 2007, Simone Concei^ao and Linda Taylor 
performed a review of nursing literature and found 
that there were three ways that concept mapping 
was being discussed in relation to nursing. There 
were articles that focused on research, those that 
focused on the process of creating concept maps, 
and those that discussed the use of concept maps 
in nursing education. They also found that concept 

maps were being applied in skills laboratories, 
classrooms, clinical practice, curriculum develop- 
ment, and research. 

Researchers have used concept maps in the 
planning of a research project, to develop a con- 
ceptual framework that will link identified con- 
cepts to the actual research. In 2002, Barbara 
Daley used concept maps to plan a research study 
investigating how the use of concept maps impacted 
the learning of adult students in higher education. 
She charted the eight principles of the scholarship 
of teaching and learning on a concept map. The 
actual research was then linked to the eight prin- 
ciples as they appeared on the concept map. 

Concept maps also have been used to address 
the challenges of analyzing qualitative research. 
Concept maps allow researchers to reduce the data 
in qualitative research in a meaningful way. They 
provide the researcher with visual identification of 
themes and patterns, a strategy for categorizing or 
coding the data in qualitative research, and a way 
to present findings. In a 2004 study, Jason Brown 
and Lisa Bednar used concept mapping to describe 
the themes identified by parents of children living 
with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. In 2004, 
Patricia O'Campo, Jessica Burke, Geri Lynn Peak, 
Karen McDonnell, and Andrea Gielen used concept 
maps to illustrate the neighborhood domains that 
affect the prevalence, perpetration, severity, and 
cessation of partner violence. The major disadvan- 
tage in using concept maps in research, identified 
by Barbara Daley, is the complexity of the maps. 
The format of the concept map can create a chal- 
lenge for the reader when trying to determine which 
concepts are of lesser or greater importance. 

In nursing, concept maps have been used to 
develop, individualize, and organize a patient's 
plan for care. In a 2000 article, Patricia Schuster 
reported that when nursing students used concept 
maps to develop patient care plans, the students 
described the map as a holistic picture of the 
patient's problems that changed and evolved over 
time. For the students, the map presented the inter- 
relatedness of the patient's problems, interven- 
tions, and expected outcomes. 

Nursing educators have used concept maps as 
an effective tool to promote meaningful and effec- 
tive learning and to help students develop abstract 
and critical thinking and problem-solving skills. 
Knowledge gains meaning when it can be related 

198 Concept Mapping 

to a framework of existing knowledge. Concept 
maps can help facilitate the transition from theory 
to practice. Li Ling Hsu advises that learning is 
more likely to occur when information is presented 
in a meaningful way that promotes linking the old 
and new information or concepts. In contrast to 
relying on rote memory, the creation of a concept 
map involves an understanding of the concepts, a 
connection between the concepts, and a grasp of 
the entire situation. Novak reports that when con- 
cept maps have been used to promote assimilation 
of new knowledge, students' test scores have 
increased and there has been a decrease in stu- 
dents' test-taking anxiety. 

In a 2005 study, Willie Abel and Martha Freeze 
evaluated the use of concept maps as a clinical 
teaching-learning activity. She found that as stu- 
dents progressed through the curriculum, their 
ability to use nonlinear thinking to identify rela- 
tionships among concepts increased. Two years 
later Melanie MacNeil did a similar study, which 
demonstrated that when concept maps were used 
to evaluate students' knowledge of course mate- 
rial, students provided a clearer understanding of 
the material than when traditional course survey 
methods were used. MacNeil advised that future 
research is needed to refine evaluation criteria for 
concept mapping so that it can be used as an effec- 
tive teaching strategy. 

In a 2006 study, Laura Clayton conducted a 
literature review to identify research studies that 
used concept mapping as a teaching-learning tool. 
Her goal was to find evidence for the use of con- 
cept mapping as a teaching-learning method. 
Clayton identified seven research studies upon 
which to base her findings and recommendations. 
She concluded that concept mapping usually has 
positive effects on academic performance and fos- 
ters students' critical thinking ability. It also appears 
that concept mapping may be an appropriate 
teaching method but, like MacNeil, Clayton warns 
that the existing studies are limited for drawing 
generalizations. In a 2007 study, David Hay devel- 
oped criteria for three types of student learning: 
deep learning, surface learning, and non-learning. 
In a master's level research course, Hay used a con- 
cept map to assess the quality of learning using 
these criteria. He found that deep, surface, and 
non-learning can be directly observed by using the 
concept map. Hay concluded that concept maps 

have considerable potential for tracking student 
learning but warns that future research is needed to 
validate the learning criterion. 

In 2006, John Nesbit and Olusola Adesope 
completed a meta-analysis of experimental and 
quasi-experimental studies that examined students 
from elementary to university, and from domains 
such as science, psychology, statistics, and nursing, 
that learned by constructing, modifying, or view- 
ing node-linked maps. The authors found concept 
mapping was "somewhat more effective for retain- 
ing knowledge than studying text passages, lists 
and outlines" (p. 434) across a broad range of 
educational levels, subject areas, and settings. Like 
MacNeil and Hay, these authors identified the 
need for additional concept map research. 

Concept maps have been used in curriculum 
planning as they can provide an explanation of 
why a particular concept is worth knowing and 
how it relates to theoretical and practical issues 
both within the discipline and without. Concept 
maps present, in a highly concise manner, the con- 
cepts and principles that need to be taught and the 
desired outcomes. The mapping process can help 
faculty members identify key concepts that are to 
be developed and integrated into the curriculum. 
At the course level, the instructor can construct a 
map that incorporates the key concepts and con- 
tent, teaching strategies, and task allocations for 
the course. Concept maps can help teachers design 
units of study that are meaningful, relevant, peda- 
gogically sound, and interesting to students. Using 
a concept map, faculty, administration, and staff 
can visually depict the conceptual relationships 
used for intended program and course outcomes. 
Overall, concept maps support a holistic style of 

Organizations and governments have used 
concept maps in different aspects of program 
development, planning, and evaluation. In 2004, 
the Hawaii Department of Health used concept 
mapping techniques to identify factors that affect 
individuals' behaviors related to tobacco, nutri- 
tion, and physical activity and to assess patient 
satisfaction. The Centers for Disease Control and 
Prevention used concept mapping to develop a 
logic model for their research program. Tamara 
Davis in 2007 used concept mapping to concep- 
tualize and assess cultural competence for chil- 
dren's mental health services. Concept mapping 

Concept Mapping 199 

also has been used in engineering as a communica- 
tion tool and by a newly formed community foun- 
dation to facilitate the development of transparent 

Critical Summary 

There are a variety of uses for concept maps, but 
to date their most frequent use is by educators to 
increase a student's conceptual and critical think- 
ing skills. Research is providing support for the 
use of concept maps in teaching and learning envi- 
ronments. The fact that concept maps are based 
on an established body of theory provides addi- 
tional support for the tool in academic settings. 

Margaret Dykeman and Janet Mackenzie 
See also Cognitive Mapping; Constructivism; Experience 

Further Readings 

Abel, W. M., & Freeze, M. (2006). Evaluation of concept 

mapping in an associate degree nursing program. 

Journal of Nursing Education, 45(9), 356-364. 
Anderson, L. A., Gwaltney, M. K., Sundra, D. L., 

Brownson, R. C, Kane, M., Cross, A. W., et al. 

(2006). Using concept mapping to develop a logic 

model for the Prevention Research Centers program. 

Retrieved May 10, 2008, from 

Bowen, B., & Mayer, K. L. (n.d.). Using concept maps to 

facilitate transparent governance. Retrieved May 10, 

2008, from http://www.soundknowledgestrategies 


Brown, J. D., & Bednar, L. M. (2004). Challenges of 

parenting children with a fetal alcohol spectrum 

disorder: A concept map. Journal of Family Social 

Work, 8(3), 1-18. 
Clayton, L. H. (2006). Concept mapping: An effective, 

active teaching-learning method. Nursing Education 

Perspectives, 27(4), 197-203. 
Conceicjio, S. C. O., & Taylor, L. D. (2007). Using a 

constructivist approach with online maps: 

Relationship between theory and nursing education. 

Nursing Education Perspectives, 28(5), 268-275. 
Daley, B. J. (2002). Using concept maps in qualitative 

research. Retrieved from 

Davis, T. S. (2007). Mapping patterns of perceptions: A 

community-based approach to cultural competence 

assessment. Research on Social Work Practice, 17(3), 

DeSimone, C. (2002). Applications of concept mapping. 

College Teaching, 35(1), 33-36. 
Hay, D. B. (2007). Using concept maps to measure deep, 

surface and non-learning outcomes. Studies in Higher 

Education, 32(1), 39-57. 
Hsu, L. (2004). Developing concept mapping from 

problem-based learning scenario discussions. Journal 

of Advanced Nursing, 48, 510-518. 
Kinchin, I. M., De-Leij, F. A. A. M., & Hay, D. B. 

(2005). The evolution of a collaborative concept 

mapping activity for undergraduate microbiology 

students. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 

29(1), 1-14. 
MacNeil, M. S. (2007). Concept mapping as a means of 

course evaluation. Journal of Nursing Education, 

46(5), 232-234. 
McCartor, M. M., & Simpson, J. J. (n.d.). Concept 

mapping as a communications tool in systems 

engineering. Retrieved May 10, 2008, from http:// %20(copy) 

Nesbit, J. C, & Adesope, O. O. (2006). Learning with 

concept and knowledge maps: A meta-analysis. 

Review of Educational Research, 76(3), 413-448. 
Novak, J. D. (1990). Concept mapping: A useful tool for 

science education. Journal of Research in Science 

Teaching, 27, 937-949. 
Novak, J. D., & Canas, A. J. (2006). The theory 

underlying concept maps and how to construct them. 

Retrieved October 17, 2007, from 


O'Campo, P., Burke, J., Peak, G. L., McDonnell, K. A., & 

Gielen, A. C. (2004). Uncovering neighborhood 

influences on intimate partner violence using concept 

mapping. Journal of Epidemiol Community Health, 59, 

Schuster, P. M. (2000). Concept map: Reducing critical 

care plan paperwork and increasing learning. Nurse 

Educator, 25(2), 76-81. 
Torre, D., Daley, B. J., Stark-Schwetzer, T., Siddartha, S., 

Petkova, J., & Ziebert, M. (2008). A qualitative 

evaluation of medical students learning with concept 

maps. Medical Teacher, 29, 949-955. 
Trochim, W. M. K., Milstein, B., Wood, B. J., Jackson, 

S., & Pressler, V. (2004). Setting objectives for 

community and systems change: An application of 

concept mapping for planning a statewide health 

improvement initiative. Health Promotion Practice, 

5(1), 8-19. 

200 Conceptual Argument 

Conceptual Argument 

Because case studies generate very rich qualitative 
and quantitative data, they can be one of the best 
ways to develop conceptual arguments that result 
in theory development or extension, as long as 
sufficient attention is paid to research design. One 
of the approaches used to develop theory from 
case studies is called inductivism. Although theo- 
retical propositions can be generated from a single 
case study, a much stronger conceptual argument 
can be made with a multiple-case study research 

Overview and Discussion 

A case can be considered an experiment, capable 
of producing theoretical propositions that allow 
predictions to be made about the circumstances 
under which similar or contrary findings might be 
expected. Case studies excel at answering "how" 
or "why" questions about contemporary real-life 
phenomena, where the researcher has no control 
over events and the relationships are complex and 
unfold over time. Case studies are frequently used 
to generate theory when little is known about a 
phenomenon, or findings are contradictory or in 
conflict with common sense, but they can also 
reveal limitations of, or extend, existing theories, 
and can provide insight about typical, extreme, or 
deviant phenomena. 

According to Robert Yin, who has written 
extensively on case study research methodology, 
ruling out threats to internal and external validity 
to produce credible findings requires rigorous case 
study research design. The research design estab- 
lishes the roadmap for how the study will be con- 
ducted, so that causal inferences can be made. It 
covers what questions to study, what data to col- 
lect, and how to analyze results. To make a con- 
vincing conceptual argument using a case study, 
the case(s) must be selected purposely to generate 
maximum insight into the phenomenon of interest. 
Data collection should be guided from the outset 
by tentative hypotheses or propositions that iden- 
tify plausible, potentially significant relationships 
and constructs. 

To enhance the reliability of the study findings, 
a research protocol must be established in advance 

that sets out, for each of the questions to be 
addressed, what procedures will be followed for 
data collection, analysis, and record-keeping. It 
must be flexible enough to permit the investigation 
of unexpected findings. The procedures outlined 
must be followed throughout the study. A data- 
base of researcher notes, documents, tables, and 
transcripts should be created. As well, to make 
replication possible, a separate evidentiary base 
that links the study questions and conclusions 
should be maintained. Evidence must be kept sepa- 
rate from interpretations. 

To collect high-quality data, it is imperative that 
data collection be guided by preliminary theory or, 
if no theory exists, by a clear explanation of what 
is to be explored and why, and how the success of 
the study will be demonstrated. Data should be 
collected from multiple theoretical perspectives 
and data sources, using a variety of methods, and, 
where possible, multiple researchers. This approach 
to data collection is known as triangulation. 
Robert Yin states that triangulation provides 
"between methods" validation, which increases 
internal validity because measures are independent, 
and "within methods" validation, which increases 
reliability by providing assurances of consistency. 
Obtaining converging evidence via triangulation 
aids in theory development. Collecting both quali- 
tative and quantitative data can help clarify rela- 
tionships between variables, overcome researcher 
biases and blind spots, and prevent unsubstanti- 
ated theorizing. Data collection should continue 
until new data yield few additional insights. 

One unique aspect of case study research is that 
data collection and analysis occur simultaneously. 
Although data collection is initially guided by ten- 
tative theories, as the data are collected continu- 
ous comparisons are made between the data and 
the guiding theory that may reveal anomalies and 
unexpected findings. Researchers must be atten- 
tive to all data collected and must consider all pos- 
sible explanations for any anomalous findings, 
including validity threats, researcher biases, com- 
peting theories, and changes in the internal or 
external environment that could have an effect on 
the phenomenon of interest. They must be pre- 
pared to modify their data collection procedures, 
add data sources or additional cases, and even 
alter the research question as required by the 
emergent data. 

Conceptual Argument 201 

The possibility that rival explanations might 
account for study findings poses a serious threat to 
the credibility of any conceptual argument being 
advanced. Therefore analytic strategies that mini- 
mize threats to internal and external validity are 
necessary. Robert Yin identifies a number of these. 
The first is pattern-matching, also called process 
tracing, where emerging patterns in the data are 
compared with those predicted by theory, to see if 
they match. The second is explanation building, 
where causal linkages to the phenomenon of inter- 
est are established over time, as plausible explana- 
tions are successively rejected until a credible 
pattern emerges. A third method is time-series 
analysis, where changes in a single or in multiple 
variables over time are noted and compared to 
trends predicted by theory or rival explanations. 
Multiple cause-effect chains can also be estab- 
lished and compared to those predicted by theory. 

It is highly recommended that at least two case 
studies are used to build conceptual arguments, 
because the findings of the initial case can be stated 
as hypotheses or propositions, and tested in suc- 
cessive cases. The successive cases are purposely 
chosen to replicate or not replicate findings, as 
predicted by theory. Each case should be analyzed 
separately before findings are compared across 
cases. Each case can be considered an experiment, 
capable of verifying the theoretical linkages pro- 
posed. The use of a multiple-case research design 
strategy alleviates many of the concerns that might 
otherwise exist about the nongeneralizability or 
lack of internal validity of case study findings. 

Case study findings must be clearly written and 
carefully presented to ensure that the conceptual 
arguments made are credible. The stringency of the 
design and research protocols, if followed, should 
ensure credibility, but the case study report itself 
must be persuasive. Evidence should be supplied in 
an unbiased way, allowing readers to draw their 
own conclusions. When writing up single case stud- 
ies, each theoretical proposition must be clearly 
presented, with sufficient evidence supplied to sup- 
port conclusions reached. When writing up multiple 
case studies, the extent to which theoretical predic- 
tions were upheld must be stated, with all instances 
of nonreplication theoretically justified. In either 
instance, examining the evidence from different 
perspectives and demonstrating how rival explana- 
tions were ruled out strengthens the report. 


Good examples of how to make credible arguments 
using case studies can be found in books or doctoral 
dissertations, where relatively unrestricted page 
length permits detailed descriptions of the research 
methodology and the evidence supporting theoreti- 
cal claims. One example of each is referenced 
below. There is also a growing body of literature 
available that pertains to case study methodology. 
Researchers should find both the Eisenhardt and 
Graebner and the Yin references helpful. The 
remainder of this entry describes two recently pub- 
lished journal articles, one a single case study and 
the other a multiple case study, that made useful 
theoretical contributions and illustrate some of the 
ways conceptual arguments can be made. 

Darja Peljhan's article describes an in-depth 
explanatory case study undertaken to examine the 
relationship between the use of management control 
systems and strategy implementation in one Slovenian 
company. Embedding the case study within existing 
theory, Peljhan collects data from interviews, par- 
ticipant observation, and internal and external docu- 
ments covering the period 1992-2004. The study 
illustrates how the two constructs are related, and 
extends theory by showing how the relationship 
impacts organizational performance. Her doctoral 
dissertation is referenced below so interested research- 
ers can access detailed information about methodol- 
ogy and how her data support her conclusions. 

In the second article, Elizabeth Hamilton seeks 
to fill a gap in the literature to arrive at an under- 
standing of how an organization's loss of legitimacy 
might be connected to its sudden death. By extrap- 
olating from related literatures, an initial explana- 
tory model is created that identifies three possible 
moderators of the relationship. After stating the 
tentative relationships as a series of propositions, 
the propositions are tested by examining archival 
data collected from company Web sites, business 
magazines, and newspapers on three purposely 
selected American companies that suffered sudden 
death. Each case is analyzed separately, then find- 
ings are compared across cases. The conclusion 
reached is that the model needs revision, but this 
study makes a theoretical contribution nonetheless 
by establishing a preliminary model to guide future 
research and by identifying some of the additional 
relationships that need to be explored. 

202 Conceptual Model: Causal Model 

Critical Summary 

Proper research design enables researchers to make 
credible conceptual arguments via the use of single 
or multiple case studies. Remaining attentive to 
threats to reliability and to internal and external 
validity throughout the research process is critical to 
avoiding the most commonly cited problems regard- 
ing case study research. Because case study data are 
collected holistically and in real-life contexts, and the 
analytic strategies employed ensure that conclusions 
reached are tightly linked to empirical data, case 
studies can produce interesting, empirically valid 
theory. Situating a case study within the extant lit- 
erature can strengthen its theory-building capacity. 

Janice R. Foley 

See also Credibility; Inductivism; Pattern Matching; 
Process Tracing 

Further Readings 

Eisenhardt, K. M., & Graebner, M. E. (2007). Theory 
building from cases: Opportunities and challenges. 
Academy of Management journal, 50(1), 25-32. 

Foley, J. R. (1995). Redistributing union power to 

women: The experiences of two women's committees. 
Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of 
British Columbia. 

Hamilton, E. (2006). An exploration of the relationship 
between loss of legitimacy and the sudden death of 
organizations. Group & Organization Management, 
31(3), 327-358. 

Lipset, S., Trow, M., & Coleman, J. (1956). Union 
democracy: The internal politics of the International 
Typographical Union. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. 

Peljhan, D. (2007). The role of management control 
systems in strategy implementation: The case of a 
Slovenian company. Economic and Business Review 
for Central and South-Eastern Europe, 9(3), 257-282. 

Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research: Design and 
methods (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Conceptual Model: 
Causal Model 

A conceptual model is a simplification of reality. It 
is a schematic representation of the core concepts 

(the variables) of a research project and of the 
assumed causal relationships between these core 
concepts. A conceptual model might prove very 
useful when using it in a deductive case study 
approach, in which the researcher develops the 
assumptions concerning the relationships between 
the core concepts by basing assumptions on a 
theory. A conceptual model can also be obtained 
as a result of an inductive case study approach. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

A conceptual model consists of relationships 
between core concepts. Although a core concept 
sometimes corresponds to an observable constant, 
such as "nature" or "organization," in a concep- 
tual model core concepts refer only to phenomena 
that can occur in different variations. For example, 
leadership style is a phenomenon that has different 
variations, such as "a participatory leadership 
style" or "an authoritarian leadership style." 
Because of this variation, researchers often use the 
term variables to indicate the core concepts of their 
research. Some variables, such as "sex," are nomi- 
nal variables, and can be presented only in terms 
of distinct categories, such as "man," "woman." 
Ordinal variables, such as "level of commitment," 
can be presented in terms of "more" or "less," 
whereas interval variables, for example, "age," 
have a variation in which the numeric distance 
between two ranking points can be fixed. 

When we consider the relationship between core 
concepts, we refer to a causal relationship, in which 
we differentiate between cause and effect. We rec- 
ognize a causal relationship in phrases such as "X 
causes Y," "X leads to Y," "the consequence of X 
is . . . ," "X influences . . . ," and so on. Generally 
speaking, we define a relationship between two 
variables X and Y as a causal one if we assume 
that, as a result of a change in X, a change will 
occur in Y. For example, we expect a causal rela- 
tionship between a leadership style and the busi- 
ness's profits when we assume that a change from 
an authoritarian style to a participatory style will 
cause a change in the volume of the profit. 

Labeled according to the nature of the assumed 
effects, three different types of a conceptual model 
can be distinguished (Figure 1). 

A direct effect conceptual model suggests that we 
study the immediate influence of the independent 

Conceptual Model: Causal Model 203 


> > 


Direct Effect 

Mediating Effect 

Moderating Effect 

Figure I Types of conceptual models 

variable X (cause) on the dependent variable Y 
(effect). For example, we expect that intensive 
smoking (X) causes an increase of lung cancer 
mortality (Y). 

It is possible that the independent variable (X) 
affects the dependent variable (Y) indirectly, via a 
mediating variable Z. For example, an increase 
in the level of economic activity (X) will lead to a 
higher quality in the healthcare system (Z), and 
that the latter will increase the population's general 
state of well-being (Y). 

It can also occur that there is a direct effect of 
variable X on variable Y, but only under particu- 
lar circumstances. In this case we speak of a mod- 
erating effect, because we expect that a third 
variable Z modifies the direction or the strength 
of the direct relationship between variable X and 
variable Y. For example, the level of financial 
reward (X) will have a direct effect on the level of 
performance (Y). However, we expect that this 
relationship will be stronger for young people 
than for those who are older. Hence, we expect a 
moderating influence of age (Z). Please note that 
the moderating variable Z does not have an effect 
on either X or Y, but only on the relationship 
between the two variables. 


In the majority of case study research projects, 
researchers gather information while using a rather 
inductive research approach, in which they collect 
data corresponding to a set of loosely connected 
sensitizing concepts. Nevertheless, well-established 
conceptual models are used in a growing number of 
cases studies, particularly in practice-oriented 
research. A recent example of the use of a concep- 
tual model in case study research was presented by 

Melinda Karp and Katherine Hughes, who studied 
the influence of the so-called credit-based transitions 
programs (CBTPs) on students' progress in postsec- 
ondary educations. A CBTP is a program that allows 
high school students to take college classes and to 
earn college credits while still in high school. 

Karp and Hughes developed an initial concep- 
tual model depicting the influence of CBTPs 
on student access to and success in postsecondary 
education. The core of the conceptual model rep- 
resents two independent variables (College Course 
Work and Support Services) that affect two depen- 
dent variables (College Acceptance and 
Matriculation and College Persistence), via three 
mediating variables (Academic Skills, Success and 
Motivation, and Social and Procedural Skills). 
They conducted five in-depth qualitative case stud- 
ies. Their study demonstrated that the initial con- 
ceptual model oversimplified the reality of college 
preparation. Hence, they refined the model, thus 
taking into account additional variables, such as 
High School Coursework and Student Motivation. 
Future research should be done to test this model 

Critical Summary 

In a deductive case study approach, a well-designed 
conceptual model helps the researcher to demar- 
cate his or her research subject clearly and to 
formulate correctly the assumptions made con- 
cerning the relationships between the core con- 
cepts. However, the majority of case study projects 
is based on a rather inductive approach. In those 
cases, it would be more appropriate to use a set of 
sensitizing concepts. 

Hans Doorewaard 

204 Conceptual Model: Operationalization 

See also Conceptual Model: Operationalization; 
Deductive-Nomological Model of Explanation; 
Inductivism; Sensitizing Concepts 

Further Readings 

Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator- 
mediator variable distinction in social psychological 
research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical 
considerations. Journal of Personality and Social 
Psychology, 51(6), 1173-1182. 

Karp, M. M., & Hughes, K. (2008). Supporting college 
transitions through collaborative programming: A 
conceptual model for guiding policy. Teachers College 
Record, 110(4), 838-866. 

Verschuren, P., & Doorewaard, H. (2009). Designing a 
research project. The Hague, the Netherlands: 

Conceptual Model: 

To conduct successfully a deductive case study- 
project that has been based upon the construction 
of a conceptual model, the researcher needs to 
operationalize the variables of this conceptual 
model. Operationalization is the development of 
specific operational definitions of these variables. 
According to Earl Babbie, the operational defini- 
tions will result in empirical observations repre- 
senting the conceptual model in the real world. 
Each conceptual model requires adequate opera- 
tionalization, regardless of its use in qualitative or 
quantitative research. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

Operationalization requires three steps. First, the 
researcher needs to specify the core concepts of the 
conceptual model. Second, the researcher needs to 
determine a set of indicators or topics. Third, the 
researcher has to formulate an appropriate set of 
so-called data elicitors. 

The specification of the conceptual model starts 
with defining a generic conceptual model. In the 
generic conceptual model the researcher defines 
the core concepts of the research project and 
decides which of these concepts are the dependent, 

the independent, and — when appropriate — the 
mediating or moderating variables. 

For example, in a practice-oriented qualitative 
case study, the researcher aims at giving a clear 
insight into the influence of job characteristics 
on the employees' capacity to change. The generic 
conceptual model (direct effect) consists of the 
independent variable Job Design and the depen- 
dent variable Capacity to Change. 

Because the core concepts as such are often too 
complex, too comprehensive, and too abstract, 
they need further specification. Based upon a pro- 
found study of the relevant literature, the researcher 
further decomposes each of these concepts into 
elements that are more unambiguous, less all- 
inclusive, and more concrete. The researcher unrav- 
els each of the core concepts into its dimensions, 
aspects, or subaspects. Subsequently, the researcher 
selects the dimensions, aspects, or subaspects that 
will be the constituting elements of the research. 

The further analysis of the concept Job Design is 
based upon the five dimensions of the classic job 
characteristics model of J. Richard Hackman and 
Greg R. Oldham. The researcher focuses on the 
aspect Work Quantity Autonomy of the dimension 
Task autonomy. One of the dimensions of the 
concept Capacity to Change is Commitment. 
Commitment is decomposed according to Natalie J. 
Allen and John P. Meyers's model of organizational 
commitment. The researcher selects the aspect 
Affective Commitment from the dimension 
Commitment. Hence, the specified conceptual model 
consists of the independent variable Work Quantity 
Autonomy and the dependent variable Affective 

The final conceptual model includes the formu- 
lation of the assumed relationships to be studied. 
These assumptions, whether expectations or 
hypotheses, are based on the results of previous 
research. If previous research shows that the 
selected independent variable often has the same 
effect on the dependent variable, the researcher 
will be inclined to expect the same relationship in 
this research project. The researcher formulates 
assumptions for each of the relationships. This set 
of assumptions finalizes the conceptual model. 

The researcher assumes that Work Quantity 
Autonomy will have a positive effect on Affective 
Commitment. The expectation or hypothesis reads 
as follows: An increase in the level of Work 

Conceptual Model in a Qualitative Research Project 205 

Quantity Autonomy will lead to a higher level of 
Affective Commitment. 

Second, the researcher needs to determine the 
indicators or topics of his or her research. Within 
the context of quantitative research, the researcher 
will determine a measurable indicator (e.g., number 
of cigarettes smoked a day) for a specified concept 
(e.g., level of intensive smoking). Qualitative research 
needs recordable and not necessarily measurable 
topics (e.g., the respondent's self-report regarding 
the perception of satisfaction after having smoked a 
cigarette). Based on further reading of scientific lit- 
erature and a deeper analysis of the research con- 
text, the researcher determines indicators for each 
of the selected dimensions, aspects, or subaspects. 

The researcher determines the following topics 
for the aspect Work Quantity Autonomy: the per- 
ceived autonomy regarding the Beginning and Ending 
of the Working Hours, the Work Pace, and Delivery 
Time. Organizational Pride, Selflessness, and Loyalty 
should indicate the aspect Affective Commitment. 

Third, the researcher needs to formulate a data 
elicitor per indicator or topic that evokes the data 
and information in regard to the indicators or top- 
ics. In quantitative research, a data elicitor is often 
a question concerning measurable data, such as 
people's age, or an organization's turnover. It also 
could take the form of a Likert item in which the 
respondent is asked to indicate to what extent he 
or she agrees with a particular statement. In quali- 
tative research, a data elicitor is a set of questions 
concerning both the selected topics and the rela- 
tionship between the different topics. 

The researcher formulates a set of questions in 
regard to both sets of topics concerning Work 
Quantity Autonomy and Affective Commitment as 
well as concerning the perceived relationship 
between the two sets of topics. 

Critical Summary 

Operationalization of the conceptual model is a 
vital step that must be taken when designing a 
deductive case study project, in both quantitative 
and qualitative research. Without a clear and well- 
documented operationalization procedure, the 
researcher's interpretation of the data of his or her 
research remains in a black box, thus decreasing 
the necessary reliability of the research results. 

Hans Doorewaard 

See also Conceptual Model: Causal Model; Conceptual 
Model in a Qualitative Research Project; Conceptual 
Model in a Quantitative Research Project 

Further Readings 

Allen, N. J., & Meyer J. P. (1990). The measurement and 

antecedents of affective, continuance and normative 

commitment to the organization. Journal of 

Occupational Psychology, 63(1), 1-19. 
Babbie, E. R. (2006). The practice of social research. 

Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. 
Boyatzis, R. E. (1998). Transforming qualitative 

information: Thematic analysis and code development. 

Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 
Hackman, J. R., & Oldham, G. R. (1980). Work 

redesign. Amsterdam: Addison- Wesley. 
Verschuren, P., & Doorewaard, H. (2009). Designing a 

research project. The Hague, the Netherlands: 


Conceptual Model in a 
Qualitative Research Project 

When using a deductive case study approach, 
researchers often choose a qualitative research 
design in which they develop a conceptual model. 
The aim of the qualitative research project is to 
carry out an in-depth analysis of the relationships 
between the concepts of this conceptual model. 

Conceptual Overview and Discussion 

There are major differences between the elabora- 
tion of a conceptual model in quantitative and 
qualitative research projects. These differences 
concern both the process of operationalization, 
which is the specification of core concepts into 
indicators or topics, and the selection of the meth- 
ods of data collection and data analysis. In a 
qualitative research project, the set of decisions 
that a researcher needs to make in the process of 
operationalization will lead to a set of recordable 
but not necessarily measurable topics. 

For example, in a practice-oriented re